Macau, October 24 - Title holder Scott Hend stayed in the hunt for a second straight victory with a battling one-under-par 70 giving him the early second round lead at the US$900,000 Venetian Macau Open on Friday.
The big-hitting Aussie, who triumphed at the Hong Kong Open last week, birdied his last hole, the ninth, from close range for a two-day total of 10-under-par 132, which was one shot ahead of Switzerland’s Martin Rominger, who shot into contention with a 68.
Overnight leader Anirban Lahiri of India settled for 73 to slip to two shots back of the new leader while Thailand’s Pariya Junasavasdikul shot the morning’s best score of 67 as the Macau Golf and Country Club bared its fangs with swirling winds causing problems to the field.
Hend, 41, has continued to show the fine form which led him to a sixth Asian Tour victory last weekend. He dropped two shots in his first seven holes before clawing his way back with four birdies against another bogey.
“It was quite benign yesterday and today, we’ve seen what can happen out here. If the wind blows like this, you just try to hold on to your score and that’s pretty much what the whole group was doing. We were struggling. You have to play conservatively and hopefully roll in some putts. Everyone will make a bogey,” said Hend.
“Sometimes it’s two and a half club difference. Even on the par fives on the back nine, with the exception of 18, it’s ridiculously difficult. You’ve just got to sit back and adjust your game plan. If I had made 18 pars, I would have been ecstatic. To come in with one under I’m quite happy. It’s quite difficult, it was very tricky.”
He does not want to think too far ahead in his hopes of joining Zhang Lian-wei of China as the only men to win two Venetian Macau Open titles.
“It’s Friday, it’s 36 holes to go. I’m just plodding along. Today was just the trotting day. No galloping, just trotting,” he smiled.
“It’s put me in a strong position. It’s ice to play solid in the first two rounds and be there abouts and not having to shoot ridiculous scores in the weekend like last year to try to win the tournament. Like today, I could afford to not shoot five or six under. Now, everyone else will have to catch up.”
Rominger, lying in 55th place on the Order of Merit, thanked his wife Simona for his good week in Macau so far. She previously caddied for him regularly when he first came out to play on the Asian Tour but stopped her on-course duties when they started a family.
“It’s the first time in a while and she’s doing a good job. She doesn’t come from golf and I’ve taught her everything. She’s the best caddy for me. She knows exactly what I like and I taught her what I like in a caddy,” said Rominger, who is seeking a first Asian Tour victory.
“Today is the old Macau that we know. It was a bit gusty and windy and I played nicely, I’m happy. I did everything well, only one poor shot on the second shot into six where I plugged in the bunker and made double. The rest I played solid. Putted very good and made a lot of putts. It’s a good two days now.”
Lahiri, winner of the Indonesian Masters at Royale Jakarta Golf Club earlier this year and second on the Order of Merit, was disappointed to take 12 shots more than his opening’s 61 as he posted three birdies against five bogeys.
“Conditions were not like yesterday, and it was windy but still it was not that hard,” said the Indian star.
“The greens were quicker and I couldn’t get my speed right with the putts. I couldn’t adjust to them. I’m playing well but I need to tighten up some loose ends. I’m still in with a great chance in the tournament.”
South African star Ernie Els, who is an honorary member and international ambassador of the Asian Tour, should squeeze into the weekend rounds after saving bogey on his last hole from four feet.
“I was battling on the whole back nine. I started on the first and made bogey and bogeyed the second which is a birdie-able hole. I knew I couldn’t be more than even par. On nine, I never saw the branch which I hit. I knew I had to make the putt to make the cut or hopefully make the cut,” said Els, who played alongside Hend.
“Hopefully I can play some better golf. I’m not pleased. I love the course. It’s in great shape and I like something in the red if I play this weekend. I think I can make improvements everywhere. I’m putting well. Last week, I struggled with some putts and hit the ball well but this week, the swing is not quite there. If I can get it on the greens in regulation, I can make some birdies.”
George Gandranata, Indonesia's current number one player, also just made the cut by coming in at 1-under today, for a 2 round even par score. William Sjaichuddin, the only other Indonesian player at this event, had to retire.
Leading scores after second round (Par 71):
132 - Scott HEND (AUS) 62-70, Adam GROOM (AUS) 65-67
133 - Martin ROMINGER (SUI) 65-68
134 - Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 61-73, CHAN Shih-Chang (TWN) 70-64
136 - Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA) 69-67
137 - Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 64-73, Daniel CHOPRA (SWE) 69-68, Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 67-70, Jaakko MAKITALO (FIN) 69-68
142 - Ernie ELS (RSA) 70-72, George GANDRANATA (INA) 72-70