Two Europeans are about to be hunted by a bunch of Australians at 13th Beach, and the wind is about to blow hard starting tomorrow. The ISPS Handa Vic Open is set for a fascinating weekend.
Swede ball-striking wizard Madelene Sagstrom’s ownership of the first two days of the women’s is no surprise; it is only a couple of weeks since she won an LPGA Tour event in Florida. She has shot 65-67 and leads by a shot from American Ally McDonald.
But Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist’s 14-under through two rounds could not be forecast. Sciot-Siegrist came here, he admitted, because he was not getting starts in other European Tour events, having secured his card for the first time late last year.
The left-hander had never been to Australia let alone experienced the links-style conditions of 13th Beach. But he has been superb. Ranked 396th in the world, he has spent the past few years playing on the Challenge Tour, where he won one tournament. “Yeah, obviously it's true, you don't really know me. Of course, it's great to be in this position.
The Australians are in packs around them. Sydney’s Travis Smyth, who has been improving on the Asian Tour, has his best ever winning chance, sitting second at 12 under and will play in the final group with Sciot-Siegrest on Saturday.
The 2014 winner, Victorian Matthew Griffin, is at 11 under along with Queenslanders Jake McLeod and Jed Morgan, the 20-year-old Australian Amateur champion, and Perth’s wunderkind Min Woo Lee, all right in the mix. Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, is a further shot back and looming.
For all of them, the lure of a European Tour exemption of two years is right there. Said Smyth: “I've paid my affiliate membership hoping to do some damage on weeks like this and just see where we're at.”
Griffin’s case is interesting; he has been making a good living on the Japanese tour, so he would need to think carefully if he did win, giving him a two-year exemption. “I hope I have to make that decision in the next couple of weeks,’’ he said.
In the women’s event, young Gold Coast pro Robyn Choi, who had an underwhelming first year on the main tour in 2019, is best-placed at 10 under, tied third. But the big Friday winner was Australia’s top-ranked player Minjee Lee, who caught fire part-way through her second round, playing the Creek course, and ultimately shot a 67 that leaves her at nine under, well in range of a third Vic Open title.
As for the bouncy, charismatic Sagstrom, 27, she plans to keep the momentum running. “I'm obviously doing good things, it's giving me the right results. I'm just going to stay patient, do the same thing and be that boring, happy Madelene,’’ she said.
The scoring has been sensational over the first two days and two players, Perth’s Jarryd Felton and Chinese player Jing Yan made holes-in-one. The cut was an astonishing five under par for the men, and three under for the women.
Both defending champions – Scot David Law and Frenchwoman Celine Boutier missed the first cut.
So did Karrie Webb, and Haotong Li, the Chinese player who was the highest-ranked player in the men’s field.
There will be another cut tomorrow, with just 35 players in the men’s and women’s events going through to the final round. Winds up to 45 km/h are expected.
It is about to get very interesting.