Retief Goosen found conditions exactly to his liking at Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Perth to take a one stroke lead into the third round of the Johnnie Walker Classic. The South African shot a four under par 68 – the best of the afternoon starters – for a 36 hole total of 138.
Several players had remarked how closely the course set up resembled a US Open layout in terms of degree of difficulty, so it was no real surprise to see the reigning champion of the United States perform so brilliantly, or that two-time US Open Champion Ernie Els was also in the shake-up, five shots back.
In fact, had it not been for bogeys at the 16th and 17th Goosen might have blown away the opposition on a day when Steve Alker of New Zealand fired the best score, a seven under par 65 in the easier morning condition, and Sergio Garcia stayed in touch.
There was a four stroke swing between Goosen and Garcia at the 16th and 17th. Whereas the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit Champion dropped shots, the Spaniard birdied both for a round of 73 and two under par total of 142.
Going into the weekend, Goosen leads on 138 by one stroke from Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who followed his opening 67 with a level par 72 for 139, with Garcia and Pierre Fulke of Sweden on 142, Els and Craig Jones of Australia on 143 and Nick Faldo and Niclas Fasth on 144.
Goosen admitted: “I got some breaks here and there but the 16th and 17th were disappointing. It is the first time this year that I have had a really good round of putting. I changed putters again this week to a new one I’ve just bought.”
He agreed with Els’s assessment that Lake Karrinyup was playing close to US Open specifications. “I would definitely say so. It has been very windy the last couple of days which makes it very tricky. The greens are rock hard.
“It could have been a really good round but Sergio birdied the 16th and 17th and that’s a four shot swing. I could have been ten under par and could have really put myself in a good position for the weekend.”
Garcia, who made two bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine, held his game together superbly, coming home in 33 with three birdies in a four hole burst. He added: “It should have been four in a row but I got a bad bounce at the par five 15th. It was great to finish the way I did and there is all to play for now.”
Jaidee, the first round leader, held his position well with his level par score and remarked: “I am very happy. Conditions were very hard, the greens were fast and along with the wind swirling it make things very difficult. It will be great to play with Retief Goosen tomorrow but I have to make sure my concentration is right”
Alker, meanwhile, drew inspiration from the kinder morning conditions a he shot his bogey-free 65. It was very much a partnership as the Kiwi had his English girlfriend, Tanya, caddieing. He joked: “We met in New Zealand when she was on her holidays. She hasn’t been the same since, poor girl!”