Adam Scott let go of inhibition and let his swing do its thing to surge to a share of top spot through two rounds of the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in Melbourne.
A dejected figure 24 hours earlier unsure whether he needed to spend time on the range or in bed, Scott delivered a scintillating round of seven-under 63 at Victoria Golf Club on Friday to finish the day tied with Victorian David Micheluzzi at eight-under par.
Micheluzzi led by four shots early in his back nine at Kingston Heath but bogeys at 16 and 18 and Scott’s eagle at the par-5 18th at Victoria brought the pair together at eight-under.
They will start Round 3 three strokes clear of Kiwi Josh Geary (69), West Australian Haydn Barron (68) and American Gunner Wiebe (68) who played his final 10 holes in six-under to move into a share of third.
Cameron Smith’s round of one-over 73 at Kingston Heath and two-over total was one shy of the projected cut-line of one-over until 5.07pm when late drama saw the weekend mark move out to two-over.
When Victorian Jack Murdoch made birdie at the par-3 eighth at Kingston Heath – his 17th hole – the cut moved back in to one-over but reverted back to two-over when Zinyo Garcia dropped five shots in his final five holes, meaning Smith could set his alarm for another early tee time on Saturday.
Scott will have one of the final timeslots in Round 3, a welcome relief for the 42-year-old who routinely wakes up three hours before he is due to tee off.
So frustrated and fatigued was Scott on Thursday that he suggested it was time for his home state of Queensland to adopt daylight savings but dragged himself up off the canvas to thrill the huge galleries that gathered at Victoria.
“I’ve had plenty of bad rounds in my career and had to come out the next day,” said Scott.
“I also pride myself on kind of not throwing in the towel. I don’t rack up big numbers too often and I also don’t withdraw playing bad. I’m here to win the tournament this week and it can turn around quick.”
After fighting with a picture-perfect swing that felt out of sync on Thursday, Scott adopted a conservative but fearless approach that yielded five birdies, an eagle and no bogeys on day two.
“To get yourself back to that 100 per cent confidence you have to let go of some of the inhibition or the fear of it going offline and just swing the club,” he added.
“That’s kind of what I was telling myself to do most of the day, just look at the target where I want to hit it and set up and swing.
“I was just trying too hard to swing good yesterday and just making it hard for myself to even swing the club, so I did the opposite today.”
The pointy end of the Australian Open leaderboard is nothing new for Micheluzzi.
As a 22-year-old amateur he led the 2018 Australian Open in the second round at The Lakes and also had a share of the lead at the 2019 championship at The Australian where he finished tied for 33rd.
Victorious at the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia season-opening WA PGA Championship, Micheluzzi is ready for whatever a final group with Adam Scott can throw at him.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s one of the things I’ve dreamed of. Australian Open with Scotty, yeah, yeah, it will be insane,” said Micheluzzi, who was playing a Junior Interstate Series match in Perth in 2013 when Scott won The Masters.
“The amount of people that will be there and all that will be pretty cool. I’m just looking forward to it.
“I was a bit aggressive back then (in 2018) and got myself into a little bit of trouble. I think I was leading by four and then had three bogeys in a row from trying to push it, trying to make birdies.
“This one’s a little bit more conservative, knows what to do now, knows to take one shot at a time and not skip ahead.
“Hopefully we can go out and put on a good show for everyone.”
Resigned to his extraordinary season coming to an end, Smith will now have to draw on additional reserves that he admits were sapped by the adrenaline of his return home last week at the Australian PGA Championship.
“I tend to really struggle on back-to-back weeks I think because I do put so much into that first week,” said The Open champion.
“I obviously really wanted to play well last week so it’s something I definitely need to work on.
“Getting more mentally prepared for the week after is definitely something that can improve.”
Europeans Velten Meyer (70), Nicolai Hojgaard (71), Pierre Pineau (71), Tom Lewis (71) and Adrian Meronk are all inside the top 11 through two rounds while Melbourne veteran Cameron Percy (68) and Queenslander Shae Wools-Cobb (66) moved inside the top 10 late on Friday.