South Korean teenager Joohyung Kim has shown maturity beyond his 17 years as he battled against increasing winds and a challenging The Hills layout to reclaim the lead of the 101st New Zealand Open.
Kim’s overnight benchmark of 7-under, set in round one of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour tournament, was quickly eclipsed by Victorian Ben Eccles who started round two with an eagle in benign morning conditions.
Steady play and a 4-under round featuring five birdies and a lone bogey was all it took for Kim to return to the lead at 11-under.
Another strong round for @joohyungkim0621 with 4-under for the day to be 11-under heading into Round 3! Can he hang on through moving day? (This putt was revised to be par)— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) February 28, 2020
Tune in to all the action from Millbrook & The Hills on @FOXSportsAUS and @kayosports#PGATA @NZOpenGolf pic.twitter.com/pCmoI7Drpt
“I played really well. With the tough conditions today it wasn’t very easy,” Kim said.
“We got three, four club winds, swirling every single time so it was tough but I managed myself really well and I hope to keep going through the weekend.
“If I can do what I did for the past two days, then I will be fine. Putting the ball in play, not giving myself too much nerves, that will be the key.”
As play returns to Millbrook Resort for the final two rounds Kim will lean on advice passed on from the game’s best as he aims to improve even further.
“I’ve been working really hard and it’s nice that the scores are as good as how much I work,” he said.
“I’m just trying to learn. I’m very fortunate that the guys, the veterans have been really nice to me and tell me how to play golf, how the best play so I think that really helps.”
.@joohyungkim0621 leads into the weekend at the #NZOpen!— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) February 28, 2020
The 17-year-old sits atop the leaderboard at 11-under, one shot ahead of @BenEccles4 🏌️♂️
How will he approach Millbrook tomorrow? Find out here 👇@NZOpenGolf #PGATA pic.twitter.com/1qLe09CK8C
Eccles’ hot start was the key to a consistent round that saw the 25-year-old end the day in outright second place as he chases a second ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia title.
“Yesterday I played awesome; in those conditions as well it just all came together. This morning I got off to a fast start – eagle, birdie, birdie. It awesome, it’s an amazing feeling and hopefully I can keep going,” said the 2015 NSW Open champion.
“The rough is up this year, which is going to make it interesting over the weekend. You’ve really got to take advantage of the par 5s, that’s something that I’ve done the last couple of days – a couple of eagles and a couple of birdies.
“I just wanted to keep enjoying it, that’s been the main thing for me this week. The last couple of years I haven’t enjoyed it a hell of a lot out in Europe, a bit of a mindset shift in the last few months has been where I think this golf has come from.”
.@BenEccles4 narrowly misses a birdie chance on the 18th but enters The Hills clubhouse as the current leader 🙌— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) February 28, 2020
With a 4-under second round the Victorian leads at -10 🏌️♂️
Full leaderboard at https://t.co/usFfht4qR5 📲#NZOpen #PGATA pic.twitter.com/20g4mODM1G
A missing suitcase and ill-fitting borrowed clothes were quickly out of mind for Lucas Herbert when he took to The Hills on Friday morning.
Light winds made for kind scoring conditions and Herbert capitalised on the back-nine. A -4 round took the Bendigo local to a score of 9-under and a share of third place alongside Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert.
“I think my suitcase is just flying in at the moment. It will be good to get back into some familiar clothes tomorrow,” Herbert laughed.
“I had to wear some wet weather pants today because I think my pants are about that far too short so it’s been an interesting one.”
Despite winning his first professional tournament at the European Tour’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic in January this year Herbert shied away from suggestions he would be a threat on the leaderboard come moving day.
“Ben Eccles has won a Professional event as well so I don’t know that it’s going to be that much of an intimidation factor. Hopefully I can just go out there and play some good golf and sort of let that speak for itself,” he said.
Kieran Muir is the top Kiwi on the leaderboard following a blistering 65 on the Millbrook course.
Sitting alone in fifth place at 8-under the card, Muir leads a logjam of Australasian golf’s biggest names tied for sixth including Michael Hendry, Wade Ormsby, Brad Kennedy and Nick Flanagan.
Seventy-seven Professionals will progress to the weekend after the second-round cut was made at 60 players plus ties. Forty amateurs will also tee it up in the pro-am format from Saturday.
Photo: Photosport NZ