Date: March 06, 2009
Author: Dean Wedlake at Clearwater, Sportal

Trio share lead at Clearwater

An Australian, a Kiwi and an American share the lead going into the weekend of the NZ PGA Championship after an intriguing Friday at the Clearwater Resort. In outright top spot overnight, Aussie Kurt Barnes finds himself still in charge 24 hours later but will feel he should have a handy buffer on the field. Instead he has to share the company of local hope Gareth Paddison and American Josh Teater, who both shot four-under 68s to join Barnes on nine-under for the tournament. Following a classy eight-under 64 on Thursday, where he needed only 23 putts, Barnes teed off the 10th at 1:40pm with his advantage no longer intact. He burst into double digits with two birdies in his first nine holes on Friday, extended the lead to two at the par-four sixth – his 15th – but came unstuck with a clumsy double bogey at the eighth to sign for a disappointing one-under 71 in ideal scoring conditions. Paddison, who suffered a double bogey of his own at the 18th in his opening round, started with a bogey at the par-five 10th but was flawless in the following 17 holes. He reeled off three straight birdies from the 13th, then buried his 18th hole demons on Thursday – where he closed with a double bogey – with a dead-eye approach to four feet and also birdied the first. “I feel very good about my game, very settled with my emotions,” Paddison said. “It&aposs a matter of trying to push on from here and I&aposm glad I&aposve stayed very focused so far, which I think showed part of my demeanour being relaxed.” “You do get nervous out there – I think it&aposs hard not to if you make a birdie and see your name near the top of the leaderboard because it&aposs certainly not been there much in the past.” Josh Teater himself made it into double-digits under-par until a bogey at the 17th left him with a slightly sour taste in his mouth. Holding equal-fourth at eight-under thanks to a pair of 67s are American Steve Friesen and Aussie Peter O&aposMalley – a player who has won the NZ PGA title twice and knows Clearwater like the back of his hand. A group of seven is right in the hunt a shot further back, including Kiwi Josh Geary, who recently qualified for this year&aposs British Open and was one of three golfers – along with Australian Jason Norris and Korean Joon Choi – to shoot 65 on Friday. The course record of 63 at Clearwater looked in real danger early on as Tripp Isenhour sunk eight birdies in an incredible 10-hole stretch, including six in a row from the 15th. However, the wheels fell off as he rounded for home with bogeys on the sixth and seventh as he settled for a five-under 67 and a tie for 22th. The only amateur in the field, 18-year-old New Zealander Danny Lee, is poised to strike at six-under. The world No.1 amateur improved on an opening 71 as he holed a 60m lob wedge for eagle at the par-five second and also birdied the eighth, 10th, 13th and 14th. “I actually played pretty well in the first round – I just started really bad and came back in the middle,” Lee said. “Today I had lots of birdie chances but still missed quite a lot and shot five-under. I&aposm happy with it.” “I was hoping not to miss the cut again and I&aposve done it alright and made it.” A total of 62 players made it through the cutline at three-under – the lowest yet since the reintroduction of the NZ PGA in 2002.