Records tumbled on a remarkable round two at Rich River at the end of which Victorian Tom Power Horan and Queenslander Kade McBride found themselves on top of the PLAY AGAIN NSW Open.
In calm conditions, McBride lowered the course record of 64 with an 8-under 63 in the morning only to have that landmark equalled by fellow-Queenslander Jake McLeod and Western Australia’s Connor McKinney within an hour, and then the three of them had to bow down to Sydney’s Nathan Barbieri who posted a new record 9-under 62 in the afternoon.
It was that kind of day, with the East course at the mercy of marauding tour professionals.
Power Horan and McBride are already at 13-under par through 36 holes with anything up to 25-under possibly required to win the $400,000 event.
They are a shot ahead of Barbieri at 12-under, with first-round leader Dylan Perry (67 today) a shot farther back at 11-under, and rookie professional McKinney at 10-under also in the mix.
Order of Merit leader David Micheluzzi has also forced his way into contention after a 66 today put him at 9-under overall, giving himself a chance to close out that honour over the weekend.
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Barbieri’s stunning round included the rare feat of hitting all 18 greens in regulation, and he made nine birdies starting on the back nine, parring his way in after a nice birdie at the sixth hole.
“I did leave a couple out there but I’m not complaining,” said Barbieri, who has a history of going low when his putter is cooperating. “I holed a couple of nice ones through the middle of the round and just finished it off really nicely. I didn’t miss any greens, so I gave myself plenty of chances, so it was just stress-free golf.”
Power Horan had to be content with a mere 64, 7-under par, and with the news that in the midst of his best-ever season, he is in contention again.
There is significance in that for the Royal Melbourne product because he is already ranked fifth on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia’s Order of Merit, and he would likely jump to second behind Micheluzzi if he wins on the Murray this week, with one tournament remaining – at The National from 30 March.
The top three earn DP World Tour cards for 2023-24 and the winner gets a start in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in July so the hard work – he has played 11 of the past 12 weeks and is heading to Hong Kong for an Asian Tour event next week – may yet be worth it.
Power Horan cites US-based instructor Brad Hughes’ influence for his resurgence this season.
“He (Hughes) has been able to not only give me the technical advice but he’s also given me the playing advice about how to play golf under pressure.”
McBride’s appearance at the top of the leaderboard is a welcome sign after a couple of years battling injuries.
The 28-year-old from the Gold Coast rolled in a birdie putt at the last to post his 63 and he will go into the final group on Saturday.
McBride has had a tough year with injuries and struggled for good results, but he has found a key to his best again. The turn-around has come from the grind, he says.
“A lot of hard work and a bit of perseverance through a few things. It’s been good. It’s nice to come out and play solid. It’s been pretty stress-free, which is nice.”
The cut-line fell at 3-under par, and among those out for the weekend are Victorian Andrew Martin, who was sitting fourth on the Order of Merit. Defending champion Harrison Crowe made the weekend on the number at 3-under.
Saturday and Sunday’s play in the Open will be televised live by Fox Sports and Kayo Sports.
Foxtel and Kayo 12.30 – 5.30 Saturday and Sunday
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