Justin Rose recovered in style from a poor finish to his first round to take hold of second place at the halfway point of the MasterCard Australian Masters at Huntingdale.
After the second round Rose was two shots adrift of leader Aaron Pike, who followed up his course record-equalling first-round 64 with a fine 69 in bright, breezy conditions.
Rose carded an excellent second-round 66 at the par-72 lay-out in Melbourne, which included eight birdies to atone for his faltering finish the previous afternoon.
Late yesterday Rose was well within reach of Pike’s benchmark before inexplicably dropping a shot at each of his closing three holes for a 69.
“The key to today’s round was not getting upset by my finish last night,” Rose said.
“I walked off the golf course and okay, I finished bogey, bogey, bogey, but I think it was the second-best score of the afternoon so it was still a really good start and I looked at it positively.
“To back that up today with a 66 is exciting.”
Pike, the easy-going Queensland-based amateur, 21, was looking forward to more of the same on the weekend.
“Just because I’m leading or just because there might be top-20 golfers breathing down my neck, I’m not going to go out there and hit a thousand balls tomorrow morning to try to get better,” he said.
“I’ve shown for the first two days that I can play and if I do it again, if I shoot 11 under again which is do-able, it’s going to be hard for one of those guys to run over the top of me.”
On his own, one shot further back from Rose at eight under, was 25-year-old New South Welshman Kurt Barnes – who has given up alcohol and embarked on a fitness campaign in a bid to improve both his game and the way he is perceived.
“A lot of people have been saying that I’m the bad boy of the tour and it’s not an image you want to carry around,” Barnes said.
“I’m hopefully getting rid of that image and it’s showing with the weight loss and the performances hopefully in the year to come.”
Simon Khan was next best of the European contingent after an excellent 66 and he had Australian trio Greg Chalmers (67), John Senden (68) and Steven Bowditch (69) for company on seven under.
Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin held fast during the afternoon for an even-par 72 to remain at six under, one shot clear of Spain’s Carl Suneson (71) and England’s Andrew Butterfield (69).
Fellow Englishman Paul Casey was at three under after a round of 70 and compatriot Nick Dougherty failed to capitalise on his first-round 65, carding a second-round 77 which included a triple-bogey seven at the short par-four second.
Among those to miss the cut at one over was 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell.
Ireland's Peter Lawrie also missed the cut on three over. However, Damien McGrane and Peter Lawrie will be around for the weekend. They are on one under and even par respectively.