World Number One Tiger Woods has his first title on Australian soil firmly in his sights after establishing a three shot lead over the rest of the field at the halfway stage of the JBWere Masters at Kingston Heath in Melbourne.
Woods, who had a share of top spot after an opening 66, produced an unspectacular but effective round of 68 to move to ten under par overall, three clear of Australia's James Nitties and Greg Chalmers and compatriot Jason Dufner, who was the best of the early tee-offs with a 67.
The crowd of 24,007 which turned out to watch the world's premier golfer was far from disappointed as Woods produced two birdies to kick things off and then gathered shots at the sixth and 12th.
The fact Woods has left a few shots out on the course over the first two days is no consolation to the chasing pack, which would appear to have little chance of reeling him in over the weekend.
Woods said he found today's round much more difficult than yesterday's with the wind picking up in the afternoon and causing him a few troubles.
"Today I didn't really do anything great, but I made two big par putts at nine and 14 to keep the round going," Woods said.
"To shoot 68 today, I thought that was a pretty good number, considering the conditions. I did have a couple of short birdie putts that I missed, but not to drop a shot today on the card. Those are always days you feel quite good about."
Nitties, who also shot a 66 in the opening round, kept pace with the leader for much of the day with birdies on one, six and 14, but bogeys on 15 and 17 saw him slip three back. Chalmers picked up four birdies, three on the front nine and one on the back, to maintain touch but also bogeyed the 17th.
A second-round 67 saw Dufner as the early clubhouse leader at seven under. The 32-year-old did his best work early in his round, racing to the turn in 31 on a front nine that included five birdies.
He got to nine under before dropping two shots late including a bogey at the last when he three-putted from 15 metres.
"All in all, it was a pretty good day, a 67 on this golf course is a pretty good score," said Dufner.
"It's fantastic to come all the way over here to play golf and have a chance to win this tournament.
"It's a great tournament, one of your bigger tournaments especially with Tiger being in the field and any time you can measure up against the game's number one it shows you where you're at."
Three players share fifth place on six under, Ashley Hall, Manny Villegas and Mathew Goggin. Goggin, whose 68 was the best of the afternoon rounds yesterday, would have been hoping for something better than his 70, which comprised 16 pars and two birdies.
Colombian Villegas is enjoying his time in Australia and also sits four off the pace after six birdies and two bogeys, while Hall had five birdies and two bogeys in his 69.