Date: November 23, 2012
Author: Dean Wedlake, Omnisport

Aussie Fox grabs NZ Open lead

Australian Daniel Fox catapulted himself into the outright lead at the halfway stage of the New Zealand Open at Clearwater. Fox had a steady one-birdie, one-bogey round going through 15 holes of his second round and was sitting comfortably enough in the top 15 until his amazing finish. The 36-year-old Western Australian stuck his tee shot on the par-three 16th to seven feet and drained the putt, then remarkably holed in from the rough on the 18th. Fox shot a three-under 69 to move to three-under for the tournament, one ahead of fellow Aussies Ryan Heller and Jake Higginbottom. A group of seven shares fourth at one-under, including overnight leader Craig Hancock who backed up his opening 68 with a 75. The leading Kiwis in Ryan Fox, Gareth Paddison and Mathew Perry along with Aussies Steven Jeffress, Peter Wilson and Michael Wright are the others at one-under. Daniel Fox&aposs 69 was the equal-best round of the day and the only sub-70 score in the afternoon. Countrymen Josh Younger (equal 36th) and Brody Ninyette (equal 47th) managed the same score from the morning groups. The lead chopped and changed as often as the Christchurch breeze did on Friday as a handful of golfers either shared it or held it outright. Hancock held it by himself for four holes until double-bogeying the 13th hole, his fourth, while both Foxes, Heller, Higginbottom, Jeffress, Paddison, Perry and Aaron Townsend all had their names atop the leaderboard at one stage. But it was the Aussie Fox that remains there heading into the weekend. Higginbottom could have shared the lead with him if not for pulling his approach into the lake adjourning the 18th green, but a smart up and down from the water&aposs edge enabled him to salvage a score of two-under 70. He is comfortably the leading amateur but the 19-year-old will be more concerned with winning the tournament, given he is already the reigning Bledisloe Cup winner from last year&aposs event and was also the best non-paid player at last week&aposs Australian Masters in a tie for 10th. Haller recorded his second consecutive 71 and will be well pleased to have done so given he was three-over through five holes on Friday. It is not unexpected to see Ryan Fox and Paddison leading the charge for the locals but Perry&aposs position is a slight bolt out of the blue given it is his maiden event as a professional. Even if he doesn&apost kick on from the 36-hole mark, Perry can take pride in the fact he was in top spot of his national Open in his first attempt. Wright shot 70 to be one of only 10 players in red figures, Wilson carded a 71 and Jeffress a 72. The cut fell at seven-over and 68 players, including six amateurs, survived through to Saturday and beyond. The biggest name to pack his bags was Josh Geary, the leading Kiwi at the last four New Zealand Opens. Geary&aposs disappointing 2012 campaign continued with rounds of 80 and 76 to finish comfortably outside the cutline.