A stunning new course record of 11-under par 61 has catapulted Queensland young gun Jake McLeod to the top of the leaderboard at the half-way mark of the Oates Vic Open at 13th Beach.
The 22-year-old was out on the Creek course in one of the early groups and smashed the layout’s previous record of 63 set by Mitchell Brown in 2015.
McLeod will take a one-shot lead over Dimi Papadatos, from New South Wales, and Victorian David McKenzie into the third round at Barwon Heads.
McLeod’s round was only one shot away from equalling the lowest ever round recorded in an Australasian Tour event.
The magical mark of 12-under 60 is held by Victorian Alistair Presnell (2010 Victorian PGA Championship), South African Erine Els (2004 Heineken Classic) and Sydney’s Paul Gow (2001 Canon Challenge).
McLeod’s round included eight birdies, two eagles and a bogey. Starting on the 10th hole, he was one-under after six holes before starting his blistering run.
“In the first six (holes) I was hitting it close and made one bogey, but other than that I was just rolling it nicely and feeling really confident and hitting it pure.
“I’m very confident in my ball striking and putting at the moment which is good.”
McLeod, who’s previous best round as a professional was eight-under, played his last three holes four-under par.
“It’s the first course record for me so I’m stoked,” he said. “I just played unbelievably today, hit the ball so good and rolled in some putts.
“The last few months has been pretty good for me. I think, mentally, I’m a little bit better now.
“My course strategy is a lot better and I’m just sticking to my game plan and feeling really confident at the moment.”
Like the opening day, most of the good scores came from the morning play. Papadatos was among a group of players who shot an equal course record of eight-under par 64 around the Beach layout.
After a disappointing 2016 at home and in Europe, Papadatos is thrilled to be in contention at the half-way mark.
The 2014 New Zealand Open champion credited a new coach in Richard Woodhouse and improved mental approach to his game behind his recent turnaround in form.
“I was hoping to make the cut this week and get a bit of momentum going forward. But now I’m in contention I’ll be having a crack (at winning),” Papadatos said.
Papadatos didn’t allow a mid-round bogey to halt his charge.
“Yesterday (Thursday) I made a bogey mid-round and it just stopped my momentum, so I made sure I put the foot down again and kept going,” he said.
The 25-year-old wasn’t surprised to hear the score that McLeod had posted.
“It’s pretty impressive but he’s pretty good so you expect that from him,” Papadatos said of McLeod.
McKenzie’s nine-under par 63 around the Creek course in the afternoon included an incredible 20 putts. He one-putted 16 holes, including holing one from off the green on the par-five 10th.
“That’s probably my best putting round since I had to get rid of the belly putter,” McKenzie said.
“But I felt like that was one my strengths, the putter, and today it was too.
“It wasn’t any winder this afternoon than when I finished yesterday afternoon. I didn’t see what it was like this morning but I’d imagine there wasn’t a lot of wind because the scores were pretty good.”
The 49-year-old admitted 13th Beach hasn’t been one of his favourite places to play in recent years. But he’s keen to make the most of his position and challenge for the title to secure a place in next week’s ISPS HANDA World Super 6 in Perth.
“I think I’ve made two cuts since they started playing here in 2013, so it’s not a happy hunting ground for me so far,” McKenzie said.
“It will be fantastic to win here but then it gets me into Perth and that’s what I’d smiling about.”
It’s a packed leaderboard with 12 players within four shots of McLeod. Home-grown hope, Bellarine Peninsula’s Deyen Lawson and South Australian Adam Bland, are at 10-under par.
The cut was 3-under with defending champion, New Zealander Michael Long, scraping through to Saturday. Tournament drawcards Brett Rumford (-7), Richard Green (-5) and Robert Allenby (-4) are also through.
Victorian Kyle Michel leads the race for the low amateur just days after being presented with the Ivo Whitton trophy for having the lowest stroke average from sanctioned Victorian ranking events in 2016. West Australian Min Woo Lee, younger brother of 2014 women’s champion Minjee Lee is currently tied for 27th at six-under courtesy of a seven-under par second round.