Friday, 19 March 2010

(Reuters) - Australian Steven Bowditch shot a course record 65 at The Hills Golf Club, Queenstown to take the lead after the second round of the Michael Hill New Zealand Open.

Bowditch reeled off eight birdies, including five in a row between the ninth and 13 holes, to reach the halfway stage at ten under par, a stroke clear of his nearest rival, compatriot Paul Sheehan.

Sheehan, one of three joint leaders after the opening round, fired a 67 to finish the second round at nine under, while New Zealand's Michael Long birdied the last in a round of 67 to finish the day outright third at eight under.

Beginning his round with a birdie at the par five first, Bowditch was solid, if not spectacular, through his first eight holes to remain at even par.

However, he caught fire and reeled off five straight birdies from the ninth hole to the 13th, following that up with another at the 15th, when he drove the green, and then producing a wonderful tee shot on the par three 16th to three feet to move to seven under par.

"I've been practising well and doing everything I need to do to compete at a high level but haven't been able to put it on the golf course," Bowditch said.

"The last couple of days I just went out there and had fun, still put in all the work but played like I didn't care to a certain degree."

While Bowditch's round gave him the tournament lead, his performance was overshadowed by an amazing display from New Zealand's 1963 Open Champion Bob Charles who, at the age of 71, became the oldest player to make the cut in a European Tour event.

The record was previously held by Ireland's Christy O'Connor, who was 64 and 184 days when he made the cut in the 1989 Carroll's Irish Open.

But cheered on by his home crowd, the legendary left-hander rolled back the years to shoot a 68, making the cut with a score of one under par 143 after a round that featured five birdies and an eagle. He also became the first player to beat his age by three shots.

"I didn't want to come here and embarrass myself. The competition does get me fired up and the way the golf course set up helped me considerably," Charles said.

"The old adrenaline starts to flow with the competition and I almost felt 30 years younger today. It's something which I enjoy and get a lot of pride from.”

And there was more excitment when Australian Steven Jeffres made the first albatross of the season by holing-in-one with a driver on the 332 yards 15th.


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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FINCH, RichardENG18-14
T2BOWDITCH, StevenAUS18-11
T4NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-10
T4MILLAR, MatthewAUS18-10
T4PARRY, CraigAUS18-10
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