England’s Nick Dougherty headed a strong European challenge at the top of the leaderboard in Auckland alongside Australian Wade Ormsby at the New Zealand Open after two rounds of play.
Following his sound opening round of two under, the 24-year-old fired five birdies in a near-perfect display on his way to carding a five-under 66 today.
Dougherty’s scintillating performance in squally conditions at the Gulf Harbour Country Club left him equal with Ormsby and one shot ahead of former US Open champion Michael Campbell, alone in third spot.
After hitting a mediocre round of one-over on the opening day, Ormsby set the course alight in the afternoon with some splendid putting as he carded an unmatched eight-under, which included nine birdies.
Speaking moments after draining a 20-foot putt on the 18th hole to draw level with Dougherty, Ormsby attributed his success to his putter.
“It was a nice putt [on the 18th],” he said. “I played pretty good [yesterday] but I didn’t hole many putts. I did some work on my putting and they started flowing in.”
Overnight leader Scott Strange, who seared the course on the opening day with a four-under 67 in harrowing conditions, failed to capitalise on his chances in the second round and was forced to settle for one under and fourth place after a mixed display.
Meanwhile, Campbell shook off yesterday’s mediocre performance to power up the leaderboard with an explosive round which included five birdies and an eagle.
However, after drawing level with Ormsby and Dougherty after 17 holes, the local favourite pushed his putt wide on the 18th green to drop a shot and finish the day in outright third place.
Although disappointed not to join his rivals on seven under, Campbell said after his round that he was comfortable with his putting.
“I think, gauging on yesterday’s performance, I was pretty close to shooting well,” he said. “It was a great round and it is nice to get myself into contention for the weekend.”
And despite being the clubhouse leader heading into the third day, Dougherty, speaking shortly after finishing his second round, conceded there was still room for improvement in his game.
“I have got a little bit of work to do on my swing, but all in all I played well,” he said. “I have played nicely the last couple of days but I certainly wouldn’t say I’m playing my best.”
With the field expected to be cut to 69 players ahead of the final two days, Europeans Andrew Raitt, Peter Lawrie and Shaun Webster also remain well-poised among a field of nine players tied for fifth place on four-under.
After hitting an even-par round during Thursday’s torrential weather, Raitt made the most of the moderately improved conditions to hit four under for the day with four birdies in a blemish-free round.
Irishman Lawrie also turned Thursday’s run-of-the-mill performance around with a blistering display of five birdies to finish at five under for the day, while Webster improved his overnight score by three shots.
Others likely to challenge Dougherty and Ormsby for the lead on the third day and comfortably in the clubhouse on four-under include Australians Greg Chalmers, Jarrod Moseley and Nathan Green.