Bo Van Pelt (Getty Images)
World Number 24 Bo Van Pelt justified his position as one of the pre-tournament favourites with a five under par 67 that gave him the clubhouse lead midway through the second round of the ISPS HANDA Perth International.
The 37 year old American had five birdies, two bogeys and an eagle three at the long seventh to reach seven under par at Lake Karrinyup.
That was the same mark as overnight leaders Alejandro Cañizares and Michael Hendry, both of whom were among the afternoon starters.
Much of the drama in Van Pelt’s round came late in the day, as after starting at the tenth he struck a four iron to 25 feet on the par five seventh and holed the putt, then three-putted the short eighth, before leaving himself a simple birdie to finish on the ninth after a good wedge approach.
“It was a solid day,” he said. “I would say the biggest difference from today from yesterday, I think I played the par fives five under. I was only two under on them yesterday, so that was the difference in the round. I think I only missed three greens, so I was driving the ball in play, and was able to take advantage of the par fives.
“All in all, seven under, I'm very pleased. I haven't played a tournament in a few weeks, so I like the golf course a lot. I’m just excited about the opportunity. Last time I was in Australia, I didn't get to play the weekend, so nice to get to play the weekend.
“There are a lot of great players here, but I think I was five back going into today, and whenever you're that far back, you try to shrink it going into the weekend. So hopefully I'll be closer than five back when the day ends and hopefully after tomorrow do the same thing, get a little bit closer. You try to have a chance to win with nine holes to go on Sunday. That's something my caddie and I always talk about is just trying to give ourselves a chance on Sunday, and then you just never know what will happen.”
As Van Pelt signed his card, New Zealander Hendry resumed with a birdie from five feet at the tenth to join Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo in the lead at eight under.
European Tour rookie Grillo, needing a good week to secure his card for next season after starting the event at 112th on The Race to Dubai and with only the top 115 retaining playing privileges, birdied the first from 40 feet, bogeyed the second and chipped in from the bunker to eagle the third in a dramatic start.
At two under after three holes the 20 year old was into a share of the lead as the Qualifying School graduate chased a first professional victory.
Van Pelt’s playing partner David Howell had a bogey-free 68 to join fellow Englishman Robert Coles, South African Peter Cooke and Australian Jason Scrivener in the clubhouse on five under.
Former World Number Three Paul Casey had held a share of the lead after two early birdies, but the 35 year old came home in 40 to slip back to two under for the event.
Grillo had a real bonus at the ninth when his approach spun back from six feet beyond the pin and dropped in the hole for a second eagle of the day.
Another birdie at the 12th left the Argentinean two clear of Hendry, with another two shots back to Van Pelt, Jason Scrivener and Andrew Johnston.