Fiji: Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Scott Hend of Australia took advantage of his blistering form to sign for a six-under-par 66 and grab a share of the halfway lead at the Fiji International on Friday.
Hend overcame a five-shot deficit to sit atop the leaderboard alongside countryman Jason Norris (68), Malaysia’s Gavin Green (69) and overnight leader Daniel Pearce (71) of New Zealand on seven-under-par 137 total at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course.
The 44-year-old Hend drilled in a monstrous 65-footer for eagle on the par-five first and added three birdies to cap a brilliant front nine of 31. He traded two birdies against a bogey on his way home to move into a share of the lead.
The leading quartet holds a two-shot advantage over Australian trio Adam Bland, David McKenzie and Peter Wilson, who returned with identical 71s to share fifth place, at the A$1.5 million (approximately US$1.14 million) event.
Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, will have the Presidents Cup at the back of his mind in his weekend battle at the Fiji International. He hopes a strong showing this week will help him make the International team as one of the captain’s pick, which will be named in September.
Green, who opened his campaign with a 68, took pride in his battling performance as he stayed on track for a career breakthrough after carding a bogey-free round highlighted by three birdies on the first, fourth and 17th holes.
Australian Harry Bateman holed his sand wedge from 130 metres to record the second ace of the week on the par-three 15 hole. He posted a 66 to trail by three shots in tied-eighth position at the event, tri-sanctioned by the Asian, European and the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia.
Did you know?
- Green found 16 greens in regulation play today and missed only two fairways in his second round of 69. He needed 32 putts around the greens today.
- Green is playing in a tri-sanctioned event on the Asian Tour for the first time since turning professional in 2015.
- Hend managed to hit 11 fairways and missed only one green in regulation in his second round. He matched the day’s lowest score of a 66 with Australian Harry Bateman and local hope Sam Lee.
- Hend found the bottom of the cup after rolling in an eagle putt from 65 feet on the par-five first hole.
- Hend and Norris are both 44 years old while Green (23) and Pearce (29) and in their twenties.
- Bateman’s hole-in-one on the 15th hole is the second one in consecutive days at the Fiji International. His countryman Peter Cooke struck a hole-in-one on the same hole with a sand wedge from 149 yards in the first round.
Scott Hend (Aus) – Second Round 66 (-6), Total 137 (-7)
I just tried to play stress-free golf in the wind. I missed a lot of putts but still walked off the golf course with six-under-par to get into a good position at the halfway mark. Now everyone has the same tee times that are on the same score.
I think we got a little bit rub off the wrong way with the green out here in the way the conditions were out here yesterday morning and this afternoon but now I am right there with the boys that played on the other side of the draw and we will see what happens tomorrow.
It is very hard to judge, especially seaside winds are really heavy so if you are a little bit protected and you hit your shot out into the wind, you’re not sure if it is going to get smashed or it’s going to cut through the breeze so you need to be a little on the cautious side. If you come up short, you come up short. Rather than just blazing away over the back.
The putt on the first hole feels like 340 feet (laughs). It was probably about 65-70 feet I guess, it was a long one. It was one that you make one out of 20 times. You have a crack at it if you’re lucky.
Overall it was same as usual, nothing really changes. To be honest I could have shot lower than this. Everyone is going to get a bad bounce out there occasionally. I got six in a row on the back nine that didn’t really go my way today. I probably left two or three shots out there.
I probably hit my worst swing of the day on 17 for bogey. Unfortunately, I just blocked it a little right, down to the hazard, took a drop and miscalculated which club to hit into the green. I thought I hit a really nice chip and it just ran out over the slope.
It’s just one of those things. I made a mistake off the tee and I paid the price for it. It is probably the easiest hole on the golf course and I felt like making a double there.
There is nothing more that I would like than to be in the President’s Cup team this year. With that in mind, there are no two ways about it, I have to perform, if I don’t perform, I won’t get picked. There is nothing to hide, there is nothing to be scared about wanting to play in the President’s Cup. I need to perform.
Gavin Green (Mas) – Second Round 69 (-3), Total 137 (-7)
I played pretty solid today. It was like yesterday but I didn’t make as many putts as yesterday. It was solid overall. I stayed really patient out there in the windy conditions. I had to grind on a couple of holes. I had a few hiccups but other than that, it’s pretty solid.
I hit a bunch of one-irons today and a couple of drivers again. I was just trying to hit the fairways and the greens the last two days, sticking to my game plan. The birdie on four was pretty big. It’s a tough hole already in the wind and the pin was all the way on the right near the water. I didn’t expect a birdie there.
I am in a good position right now. I will stick to the same game plan, nothing changes. It’s working for me so far. I will try and keep it on the fairways and get it close on the greens. Hopefully I can make some putts over the weekend too.
There are a lot of good players out there. Pearce, Norries and Hend are up there on the leaderboard as well. They are all really good players. It’s going to be a good week.
Daniel Pearce (NZL) – Second Round 71 (-1), Total 137 (-7)
It’s always nice to be on top. I can’t complain about how things went today. I got off to a pretty steady start. Chipped in on the second and then hit in the hazard on four and made bogey.
A couple of birdies, then a couple of hiccups early on the back-9, but a couple of birdies late in the piece to get it back under par which was nice.
Early they were, but I think towards the end of the round it was getting pretty similar to the strength of wind we had yesterday.
I feel like you’ve still got to play pretty good out there, especially with the wind. It’s definitely going to benefit you if you’re a good ball striker. So, you get a pretty good advantage if you’re hitting the ball well and controlling your ball well in the wind.
Scores after round 2 of the Fiji International being played at the par 72, 6575 Metres Natadola Bay CGC course (am - denotes amateur):
137 - Daniel Pearce (NZL) 66-71, Jason Norris (AUS) 69-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 71-66, Gavin Green (MAS) 68-69.
139 - Adam Bland (AUS) 68-71, David McKenzie (AUS) 68-71, Peter Wilson (AUS) 68-71.
140 - Chris Gaunt (AUS) 70-70, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 69-71, Harry Bateman (NZL) 74-66, Stephen Leaney (AUS) 71-69.
141 - Jason Scrivener (AUS) 70-71, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 69-72, James Marchesani (AUS) 71-70, Scott Vincent (ZIM) 73-68, Michael Sim (AUS) 69-72, Angel Cabrera (ARG) 72-69, Damien Jordan (AUS) 72-69.
142 - Gareth Paddison (NZL) 73-69, Todd Sinnott (AUS) 70-72, Daniel Valente (AUS) 67-75, James Nitties (AUS) 72-70, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 71-71, Ashley Hall (AUS) 70-72, Jake McLeod (AUS) 72-70, Jarryd Felton (AUS) 71-71, Adam Blyth (AUS) 73-69.
143 - Dale Brandt-Richards (AUS) 69-74, David Bransdon (AUS) 70-73, Taylor Macdonald (AUS) 70-73, Mike Weir (CAN) 72-71, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 70-73, Peter Cooke (AUS) 71-72, Dimitrios Papadatos (AUS) 72-71, Vijay Singh (FIJ) 71-72, Kieran Muir (NZL) 72-71.