Adam Scott nicely poised ahead of weekend
China’s Carl Yuan has the lead at the halfway mark of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast, the 22 year old former University of Washington golfer but now based in Florida, leads by one over Queensland’s Anthony Quayle with another shot back to Adam Scott and Wade Ormsby who established the early 36 hole lead at the completion of their morning rounds.
Yuan has played on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019 after turning professional in 2018 but failed to gain access to the PGA Tour in 2020 although he has quite an amateur career behind him and is expected to do well in the professional ranks as his career progresses.
It is his second time playing in this event but compared to his missed cut last year his effort to date highlights a golfer getting better each year.
“Second time playing here,” said Yuan. “Definitely, it was helpful playing here last year. I know the course a lot better and my strategy, the holes change a bit and it really paid off. I’m more used to the wind here now since I played here last year. It’s a little different sometimes because change directions. Just got to really be patient and hit shot by shot here.
“It was a great day, honestly. I played great, played smart, stick to the plan. I was fortunate enough that I got a couple of really long putts dropped through the round. Yeah, I made two little mistakes, but really pulled myself together and kept it going.”
Yuan’s round of 65 was the equal best of the day along with defending champion Cameron Smith.
Birdies at five of his last six holes has the 25-year old Quayle just one behind the lead and compared to his disconcerting start in professional golf at this event three years ago it is a case of chalk and cheese for former Northern Territorian.
Three years ago, Quayle sat for over seven hours as he waited in vain as an alternate for a start in this event, but, due to an oversight by officials, Quayle was not contacted when a withdrawal presented the opportunity for a start in what would have been his first event as a professional and it was an opportunity lost.
Fortunately for Quayle, his career has taken a significant upturn since with considerable success on the Japan Tour and from outside the top 1000 in the world he is now just outside the top 300 and could well advance further by Sunday.
That he has made his base on the Gold Coast provides the opportunity for Quayle to play this style of golf course on a regular basis and he was quick to point out the benefit after his round.
It was a round that might have gone either way for Quayle. “It was a little rough early, to be honest,” he said after his round. “I was 1 over through the first couple and then bounced back with a nice birdie on 12, which was my third. Then I actually hit it in the water off the tee on 13. I dropped it 100 meters off the tee and still made par. Then after that it kind of got the round going a little bit.”
It certainly did just that. Quayle birdied five of his last six holes for his round of 66 and at the completion of play finds himself just one off the lead on a golf course he plays on the odd occasion when home from the Japan Tour.
“We play out here (Royal Pines) a little bit whenever we can, and also we practice on greens that are similar and courses that are similar. Yeah, I think it does have an advantage. People coming from ‑‑ even, to be honest, coming from Japan to here, it’s a completely different style of golf, but it’s what I’ve grown up on so I feel pretty comfortable.”
Quayle finished 3rd at the recent Casio World Open in Japan and so brings a strong game to Royal Pines.
Scott was out early in perfect scoring conditions with just the gentlest of breezes kicking in around 9.30am am but by then he was close to the end of his round.
Once again, Scott eagled the 15th hole although this time it came early in his round after starting at the 10th. His 30 foot putt following a 4 iron there had him heading in the right direction.
It would take him until his 12th hole to record his next birdie, that coming at the par 5 3rd of the Royal Pines layout and although he would bogey the 4th he would birdie three of his last four holes for a round of 67 and what would eventually be a share of the lead with his good mate Wade Ormsby.
“It was pretty solid,” said Scott. “I pulled a 7‑iron somewhere that I didn’t like very much and made a bogey, but other than that I think I pretty much hit 16 greens today, so it was fairly stress free.
“I played fairly defensive into the greens because I thought the pins were actually a little more tucked today and to get it really close you must risk hitting it down some of the big runoffs off these greens. So I didn’t really want to do that too much and I played safe. I rolled a lot of nice putts. A lot went by the edge, but I made a couple as well.”
Despite the prospect of a much-needed Xmas break ahead, Scott is determined to stay focused and take advantage of the position he has created for himself over the opening two days. He is after his first win in more then three years and is keen to end that drought here.
“Yeah, it will be good for me to focus up for two more days. “I thought I was good out there today and I need more of the same the next two days. The focus has been good. I feel like, definitely, I’ve got two more days in me.”
Ormsby raced to the turn in 32 and at that point was two clear of the field but he would drop shots at his 12th and 15th holes before a birdie at the last saw him join Scott in the lead just ten minutes after Scott had finished his round.
He and Scott and their respective families have known each other for many years since both lived in Adelaide before the Scott family moved to Queensland.
“Probably our dads go back longer than what we do, but first started playing golf with him when we were probably 13,” said Ormsby.
“We played and traveled the world junior, so same age. You kind of play a lot of stuff together up until you’re probably 20 years of age, and then he went to Europe and he’s gone to different levels of the game. But no, we still try to catch up everywhere we go.”
The equal best round of the day (65) came from the defending champion and the man looking to join Dan Soutar as the only golfer to win this event on three consecutive occasions, Cameron Smith. After a round yesterday that threatened to blow him out of the tournament completely, Smith is now well in contention heading into the weekend.
“Yeah, I kind of knew what I had to do today to get back into it,” said Smith. “I saw Scotty and those guys up there posted a score early and just we want out there and didn’t really play aggressive or anything, just kind of did my stuff. Yeah, walked away with seven birdies.”
So tournament organisers could hardly be happier ahead of the weekend. Adam Scott, Cameron Smith and Cameron Champ are all within striking distance of the lead at the halfway mark and with a couple of impressive youngsters ahead of them.
Champ again impressed the galleries with his controlled but powerful hitting and although six shots from the lead there is reason to believe that the two times PGA Tour winner is warming to his task as he heads into the weekend.