South Africa’s Tim Clark hit a second-round 70 to retain the lead at the Australian Masters at Huntingdale.
The world number 53 would have expected to do better than shoot two under par but at least he’ll be in the mix when it counts, unlike tournament drawcard John Daly (76, 73) who missed the cut, along with the likes of Craig Parry and Stuart Appleby who both finished at plus-four.
At seven-under, Clark leads by one stroke from journeyman Australian Anthony Summers who got to eight-under before dropping two shots on his final three holes for a 68, and former world number one amateur Michael Sim who fired an error-free 66.
One stroke further back among a menacing pack of seven players sits tournament favourite, Robert Allenby who picked up five shots on the back nine this morning for a second-round 66.
Joint first-round leader Scott Hend finished with a one-over 73 to drop to four-under.
The field generally took full advantage of Friday’s calm, quiet conditions on a course softened by overnight rain.
One exception was Clark, the runner-up behind Phil Mickelson at Augusta National in 2006, who is competing in Australia for the first time.
"I had a lot more birdie chances and with the greens being softer it was easier to get it closer, and I just didn’t make anything,“ Clark said.
“I made one putt of about eight feet for birdie on the first which was my back nine, and that was it all day.
“I left a lot out there on the greens ... but I’m still in a great position. It seems like it’s going to be quite bunched-up with how the course is playing so really it’s about playing four solid rounds.”
The unheralded Summers came to the Masters buoyed by a tie for 10th in this tournament last year, his best-ever finish in an Australasian Tour event.
But he conceded being entrenched at the pointy end of the field at the half-way mark is something new.
“It could have been really good out there,” the 39-year-old said. “When I hit a bad one, I got away with it, and when I hit the good ones I made the most of them, so it was a good day.
"I get to play the weekend, that’s a great bonus.”
Fit for the past few months after two years disrupted by stress fractures in his lower back, 24-year-old Sim is excited about his prospects at Huntingdale.
“I’m just going to stick to my game plan and play aggressive,” said Sim. “I’m putting the ball well and I’m hitting a lot of greens so as long as I can keep it going, it will be an exciting weekend.”
Daly, who is apparently keen to contest the Australian Open at Royal Sydney after next week’s PGA at Coolum, failed to come to terms with the wind at Huntingdale on Thursday and the greens on Friday.
“I had a couple of eagle opportunities and hit horrible putts, three-putted one of them,” Daly said. “When you don’t putt good, it’s not much fun, it’s tough. I had opportunities today and they just didn’t fall.”
The individual highlight of the day was provided by 27-year-old Aaron Townsend of New South Wales who arrived at the course at the crack of dawn to complete the final five holes of his first round that were stymied by Thursday’s electrical storm.
He made a complete hash of it, finishing with four bogeys for a three-over 75.
After a short break to compose himself, Townsend proceeded to tear Huntingdale to bits to equal the course record with a 64 to join Allenby on five-under.