Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Golf: Fox holes out on 18

Daniel Fox has claimed a one-shot lead at the New Zealand Open at Clearwater. Photo / Thinkstock
Daniel Fox has claimed a one-shot lead at the New Zealand Open at Clearwater. Photo / Thinkstock

Another day and another Australian leads the New Zealand Open at Clearwater.

Daniel Fox holed out on the 18th late this afternoon to claim an unlikely one-shot lead as he signed for a three-under 69.

The West Australian 36-year-old is just ahead of compatriots Ryan Haller and amateur Jake Higginbottom, who share second place at two-under the card at the Christchurch open.

Late during the second round, the name at the top of the leaderboard changed numerous times, but Fox's finish to his round put him in pole position heading in to the weekend.

He produced a birdie on 16, parred the 17th and then finished his round with an eagle as his nine iron from 131 metres found the hole.

"I got really lucky, I guess," he said of the wonder shot. "I hit a good shot but for it to go in was ridiculous, really. I was just happy to get over the water and over the bunker and just have a putt at it for birdie and it went in. Very lucky ... The rough here's still not long enough that it can jump.

I was between eight and nine and I thought I'll just hit a nine iron and it came off perfect. I've been playing it good in practice rounds. I pulled it a bit."

Fox, who has spent most of the year playing pro-ams, said it was nice to be called in for a press conference due to his success.

"Nice to be here, finally. I normally see everyone else walking in for a chat. I always wondered what it looked like. It's nice," he joked.

Leading a national open is the biggest moment of his career and he said the Clearwater greens had been tough to predict today.

"That course just makes you play honest golf all the way through and I think that's probably why the scores are what they are. It's tough to make putts on those greens. They're quite large and it's not easy getting close to it so if you make a lot of 25-footers you could probably shoot five, six or seven under."

Only 10 players are under the card after two rounds and the cut line was at seven over and 68 players, including six amateurs, will contest the weekend.

It was surprising to see so few players under the card given how much the wind died down during the afternoon, which made conditions ideal for low scores.

Those players who played this afternoon also had the best of the weather yesterday during the first round and they rode their luck in the sun today.

Of the Kiwi contingent, Ryan Fox, Gareth Paddison and Mathew Perry are part of a logjam in equal fourth at one-under the card.

Round one leader Craig Hancock fired a three-over 75 to also be at one-under, while New Zealanders Mahal Pearce, Brad Shilton and Peter Spearman-Burn are tied for 11th at even par.

Pearce was the last Kiwi to win the Open when he triumphed at Middlemore in 2003 and there's plenty of contenders who could break New Zealand's lengthy drought in their own tournament.

Ryan Fox shared the same thoughts as his namesake with regards to the greens and said the pin placements had added a further level of complexity.

"There was some tough pin placements today for sure and our whole group, we were talking about it coming down 18, that the greens here are really tough to read. They roll really, really well but because the grass on them's quite dark it's really hard to pick and learn and they can be quiet still."

- APNZ

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