An early eagle has put Victorian Ben Eccles in the lead of the 101st New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport following what was a perfect start to round two at The Hills.
Birdies at the second and third holes kept the momentum rolling for a three-hole score of 4-under the card, a total he maintained for a 36-hole sum of 10-under.
“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,” Eccles said.
“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.”
The 25-year-old started the week as a reserve in the field for the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour co-sanctioned tournament but a late call up on Wednesday morning cut holiday plans short.
“I earned my Asian Tour card last week and we thought we’d travel anyway, but we got the call on Wednesday morning saying I was in,” he said.
“I think I was fourth reserve on the Australian Tour side. We were going to have a two week holiday regardless of what happened so it’s just a bonus to be playing.”
A missing suitcase and ill-fitting borrowed clothes were quickly put out of mind by 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 second 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 when play moves to Millbrook Resort from Saturday.
“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.
Kiwi Kieran Muir made the most of still but rainy conditions at Millbrook Resort early in round two to move within reach of the lead at 8-under.
Overnight leader Joohyung Kim is capitalising opportunities available at The Hills to make the turn tied for the lead at 10-under.
Brad Kennedy, playing at Millbrook Resort, has continued a hot run of form to be 4-under through eight holes and also in a share of the lead.
The second round cut will be made ahead of round three with the top 60 Professionals plus ties progressing to the weekend.
The 101st New Zealand Open is broadcast live in Australia on Fox Sports and Kayo Sports.
For live scores from Millbrook Resort and The Hills visit pga.org.au.
Photo: Photosport NZ