MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Unheralded Queenslander Michael Wright broke clear of a logjam atop the Australian Masters leaderboard to take a two-shot lead after the second round on Friday, while double defending champion Adam Scott battled hard to keep in touch.
Scott shot a four-under 68 on a glorious afternoon at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club, but the world number two remained six strokes off the pace and behind a lengthy list of local tour grafters.
At the top was 771st-ranked Wright, one of a quartet of overnight leaders, who showed impressive poise in a 68 of his own to snatch the lead.
Wright, whose biggest triumphs have been three state-level PGA titles Down Under, was candid about his long battle to control nerves after his opening 67 on Thursday.
“I felt very comfortable out there today. I‘m looking forward to trying to feel comfortable over the next couple of days,” said Wright, who bogeyed his first hole in the tournament but has not dropped a shot since.
”There were a few (thoughts) but I managed to really keep them under wraps today. I felt a lot more relaxed in my body.
“It’s when I get busy in the mind and start tightening things up I get into trouble.”
Wright said he would try not to look over his shoulder over the weekend, with Scott expected to push hard.
Scott roared up the leaderboard early and was five-under for the day after 10 holes, but the magic deserted his putter thereafter and a bogey on the par-four 16th further applied the brakes.
“The course was really there to be had and I got off to a nice start through 10 holes and I was feeling really good, but unfortunately it slowed up on the back nine and a couple of random wedge shots cost me dearly,” Scott, bidding for a record third straight Australian Masters title, told reporters.
“I‘m within shouting distance, at least. Thirty-six holes, there’s a lot of golf to be played, and if I play a good 36 I think I can be in with a chance.”
Wright held a two-shot lead over South Australian Paul Spargo (67), with local amateur Todd Sinnott and Richard Green a further shot back.
Former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy remains in striking distance, five off the pace after carding a 71, with American Boo Weekley nine adrift after a second round of even par.
Editing by Peter Rutherford