Date: February 05, 2016
Author: Golf Victoria

Price happy in the cauldron

Aron Price is feeling uncomfortable leading the Men’s Oates Victorian Open at the half-way mark of the tournament in Barwon Heads – but that’s the way he wants it.

The Sydney-sider fired a four-under par round in the tough windy afternoon conditions around the Beach layout of the Thirteenth Beach Golf Links to leapfrog West Australians Stephen Dartnell and Stephen Leaney to lead outright at nine-under par.

Price is a shot clear of Darntell, who shot a five-under par in the morning around the Creek course, with Leaney at seven-under alongside Queensland’s Adam Blyth and round one leader Scott Strange.

A birdie on the par-five 18th gave Price the outright lead late in the day and said he’s looking forward to carrying the pressure into tomorrow’s third round.

“I need to get more comfortable in contention and I seem to be able to do it in Australia,” said Price who is aiming to improve his status on the Tour in America this year.

“I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a bit more relaxing being at home with my childhood friends.

“I was telling (amateur) Blake Collyer today, being comfortable with being uncomfortable, that feeling is part of it. Anyone from a 12-handicapper to Rory McIlroy feels those things.

“Some people feel comfortable with them and actually play better than they would without them and some people feel uncomfortable and play quite poorly.

“But every course is 18 tees and 18 greens. It’s not like people throw spanners into the mix.”

Price finished runner-up to Matt Kuchar at the Fiji International late last year and said he and coach Gary Barter spoke on the phone after he missed the cut at the Singapore Open last week.

“My goal is always to try and win. It doesn’t matter where you play,” Price said.

“I got a bit of rust off last week in Singapore and am hitting it a little bit better this week.”

Dartnell, who finished tied for 14th in last year’s Men’s Oates Vic Open, made seven birdies and two bogies in his round of 67. A chip-in birdie on the 316m par-four 14th, his fifth hole of the day, sparked his round.

“It’s the first event of the year so good to get out of the blocks well,” Dartnell said.

“I did the same yesterday. I had a bit of a slow, up-and-down start and once things got going it was good.

“My putting has improved a bit. I’ve been working on that over the off-season and that’s one thing I feel a bit more comfortable with.”

Strange started the day at nine-under and got to 11-under after 10 holes before he dropped four shots in three holes.

A wayward drive and a three-putt on the par-five 11th saw him make a double bogey and then he followed up with back-to-back bogies.

“I scrambled all day,” Strange said. “I got the winds wrong on 11, 12 and 13. But apart from that I got it around.

“It was a tough day. The breeze freshened up, it was going south, south-easterly so it was hard to pick. But seven-under (par) is not too bad.”

Leaney has won this tournament twice previously – back in 1995 and 1997 and would love to emulate Peter Thomson and Guy Wolstenholme as a three-time champion.

The 46-year-old, who was tied for 29th last year, was happy to make the most of the early morning conditions with a four-under par 68.

“I’ve hit a lot of quality iron shots this week and that’s probably been the main reason why I’m up there (on the leaderboard),” Leaney said.

“You have to have your wits about you around here. You really can’t relax for one moment, the fairways are pretty generous but you’ve got to hit a lot of good iron shots and that’s probably the strength of my game.

“This tournament has always had a special place in my heart and it would be nice to be a three-time winner.”

The cut was even par with 2014 Australian Masters champion Nick Cullen (+1), defending Oates Victorian Open champion Richard Green (+3), Peter O’Malley (+3), James Nittes (+3), David McKenzie (+3) and 2011 winner Paul Sheehan (+5) among the notables to miss being part of the weekend.

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