Date: November 24, 2017
Author: Martin Blake @ The Australian

WRAP: Day charges, Herbert holds on


Jason Day charged ominously, but unheralded Victorian professional Lucas Herbert is the midway leader of the Emirates Australian Open at The Australian.

Herbert, 21, carded the equal-best round of the day, a 66, to move to nine-under and the outright lead on day two.

He was joined momentarily by world No. 12 Day when the Queenslander lit up The Australian with four consecutive birdies on the back nine, but the former world No. 1 limped in with a bogey at the 17th to lose his share of the lead, and could not birdie the par-five 18th.

Day carded a three-under par 68 to go with his opening 66 and at eight-under, is just a shot from the lead and in the final group tomorrow with Herbert, the bright, young prospect who came out of Bendigo in central Victoria.

First-round leader Cameron Davis of New South Wales faded with a one-over 72 but at seven-under, he remains in contention. He is a shot ahead of Anthony Quayle (six-under) and three shots ahead of a group at four-under that includes Queensland’s Cameron Smith and hometown boy Matt Jones, the 2015 Open champion who had a 67 this morning.

The crowds filled The Australian for the second day in a row to see Jordan Spieth (who is at one-under, eight shots back) and Day, who has not played the Open since 2013. Day did not let them down, making his charge late in the day despite a second consecutive day of fluky north-easterlies that made life tough for those with afternoon tee-times.

Herbert, 21, from Bendigo in central Victoria, is in his second year as a pro and ranked 429th in the world, but this camouflages the fact that he was a fine amateur, good enough to represent Australia in an Eisenhower Cup. Plus, he was second in the New South Wales Open last week and his first-round 67 was carved out in the worst of the Thursday conditions.

“I think it’s everyone’s dream to win their home Open, isn’t it?’’ said Herbert. “But, I’m very aware of, especially one player teeing off this afternoon who I’ve got to beat him (Day) first and there’s also 154 other players I have to beat first as well.  It’s just the same process going into tomorrow.  I know that’s so cliché, but I haven’t even thought ahead to the prize giving ceremony on Sunday yet.’’

Herbert is a renowned big-hitter and has a maverick streak, but he is also trying to become a “smarter golfer’’ as well. His improvement in recent times, he said, came from self-belief. “I finished pretty high up last year in the Aussie Open (20th), I can play well and I’m proving that to myself, I can play well in these big events against these big players,’’ he said.

 “I’ve seen Jordan on the range and on the putting green this morning and it’s like, ‘he’s just another guy, he’s not this big thing, this big idol, he’s just another guy out there’.  So, I’m obviously trying to feel more like that. Obviously, I’m feeling like I belong out there, which is the big thing.’’

The man from Neangar Park Golf Club made four birdies on the front nine in beautiful morning conditions, and missed a few other opportunities along the way, including a putt from inside a metre at the 18th that would have given him a 65.

As for Day, he made four consecutive birdies from the 12th hole, hitting it close three times and then bombing a long one at the par-three 15th hole, by which time he was on top of the leaderboard with Herbert and the venue was buzzing. He almost chipped in for a fifth birdie in a row at the par-four 16th, but then at the 17th, he inexplicably missed the green long and right with a wedge from the fairway and made bogey.

He said a win this week would validate what has thus far been a disappointing season. “I haven’t won this year,’’ he said. “This would be a nice little end-of-year cap, knowing that it wasn’t a disappointing year. A win is a win regardless of where you play. To have the Stonehaven Cup on the mantle would be great. I know I just don’t want to win one of these; I want to win multiple Stonehaven Cups and Australian Opens.’’

Among those to miss the cut were two-time winners Greg Chalmers and Robert Allenby and last year’s runner-up Ash Hall. 

The cut was made at two-over-par 144, with 63 professionals and five amateurs to play across the weekend. 

Lucas Herbert -9
Jason Day -8
Cameron Davis -6
Anthony Quayle -7