Hend extends advantage at New Zealand Open - PGA of Australia

Hend extends advantage at New Zealand Open

Queensland’s Scott Hend is poised to extend the streak of veteran success at the New Zealand Open after moving out to a two-stroke lead on Friday.

Tied at the top with fellow Australian Matthew Griffin overnight at the Millbrook Resort in Queenstown, Hend followed up his opening round of 7-under 64 with 5-under 66 on the Coronet Course on Friday to establish a handy advantage from Aussies Marcus Fraser (66), Sam Brazel (67) and Griffin (68) and Kiwi hopes Daniel Hillier (65) and Josh Geary (65) at 10-under par.

The past two winners of the New Zealand Open – Brad Kennedy in 2020 and Brendan Jones in 2023 – were both on the other side of 45 when they won.

Hend, already a winner on the Legends Tour in Europe, turned 50 last August but has continued to split his time across both the Asian Tour and the senior circuit.

Twelve months ago, Hend was two shots off the lead going into the third round of the New Zealand Open and, as a 10-time winner on the Asian Tour, knows the reality of the task at hand.

“You can’t win every tournament but as long as you give yourself an opportunity come the weekend,” Hend reasoned.

“If someone shoots a better score than you, then that’s the way it goes.

“But just give yourself opportunities. The more opportunities you get, the more you’re going to win tournaments.”

Five years Hend’s junior, Fraser is taking advantage of his tournament exemption by virtue of his career prize money on the Asian Tour.

After stepping away from full-time professional golf just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Fraser completed the PGA of Australia’s Tour Professional Articulation and was quickly elevated to Director of Coaching at Peninsula Kingswood Country Golf Club.

In late 2022, however, tour life came calling again.

Fraser has made just two cuts in his 19 starts over the past 12 months but seems to have unlocked the form that once took him to No.51 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“Yesterday I felt like I played as good golf as I’ve played for a long time,” said Fraser, who bolstered his second round with an eagle at the par-5 first, his 10th hole of the day.

“To back it up again today and play pretty solid was nice. It’s been a long time for me to put one good round together, let alone two.

“Just trying to stay as positive as I possibly can and when your results are far from where they need to be, it’s hard to do that.

“But the appetite for the game and those competitive juices have been flowing pretty hard. Feel like I’ve made some big progress.”

Seeking to join Michael Hendry (2017) as the only home-grown winners of New Zealand’s national Open since Mahal Pearce in 2003, Hillier and Geary mastered the challenging conditions on the Coronet Course to play their way into title contention.

One-under through 10 holes of his second round, Hillier tried to stay patient through the middle of his round, taking full advantage of the scoring opportunities as the wind abated late.

“Definitely a bit of a grind out there but a few chances coming in and managed to make the most of them,” said Hillier, who for the second straight year has Tiger Woods’ former caddie, Steve Williams, on the bag.

“The key today was staying patient and hopefully I can keep that up tomorrow.”

There are a host of international challengers just three strokes from the lead in a tie for seventh, Indonesia’s Jonathan Wijono (66), Korean Soonsang Hong (68) and Japan’s Yuta Sugiura (65) level with Queenslander Kade McBride (67) and Kiwi Nick Voke (65) at 9-under par.

The 36-hole cut fell at 4-under with 75 players advancing to the weekend.

Not advancing was provisional Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit leader Kazuma Kobori, who shot rounds of 72-72 for a 2-over total.

That opens the door for Griffin, McBride, Voke, David Micheluzzi and Brett Coletta to advance their hopes of a DP World Tour card with strong performances across the final two rounds.

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