Duncan Stewart fires best European Tour score in Australia

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Australian air has brought out the best in Duncan Stewart, Michele Thomson and Gemma Dryburgh, the Scottish trio having set up the prospect of career-defining weekends in their respective assignments Down Under.

Stewart, the Grantown-on-Spey man who is based in Edinburgh, succeeded where Scottish Open champion Alex Noren failed as he made the cut – his first in six outings this season – in the inaugural ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth at Lake Karrinyup.

A seven-under-par 65 – Stewart’s best score on the European Tour – did the trick, lifting the 32-year-old 70 spots into a share of tenth as he bids to be involved in the event’s intriguing final-day format. The top 24 after the third round qualify for that match-play phase over six holes, with an added bonus for the top eight being a bye into the second round.

Stewart sparked his eye-catching score with a run of four birdies from the 14th to turn in 32. He then added further gains on the third and seventh before holing a lengthy putt on the ninth, his last hole.

“I played lovely and holed a few putts,” said the Turnhouse-attached player, who partnered Scottish No 1 Russell Knox in last year’s World Cup of Golf in Melbourne. “I played really solid yesterday but it was tricky in the wind. It’s always good to make the cut and hopefully I can now finish inside the top 24 or 
top eight then anything can happen.”

While Noren, the top-ranked player in the field, made a surprise early exit, former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen,
along with the likes of Thorbjorn Olesen, Ryan Fox and Thomas Detry, are all on course to be involved on the last day, as is local favourite Brett Rumford after he cemented his position at the top of the leaderboard with a 65 to sit on 13-under.

Rumford described the upcoming six-hole shoot-outs as a “bit of a lottery” but the five-time European Tour winner is hoping to maintain his sparkling form from the first two days. “Just getting your foot in the door and qualifying is the number one key, that’s it,” he said. “No matter where you finish, you’ve just got to be here for Sunday.”

At Royal Adelaide, Catriona Matthew’s race is already run after she missed the cut in the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open, but the Saltire is still prominent at the halfway stage thanks to Michele Thomson and Gemma Dryburgh both giving terrific accounts on their LPGA debuts. After Thomson had grabbed the spotlight with her opening 68, Dryburgh was the top tartan performer in the second round, signing for a bogey-free four-under 69. That lifted her to four-under for the tournament, sitting alongside Thomson in joint 10th after she added a 74. The Scottish duo are five shots off the lead, held by Australian Sarah Jane Smith, but they are four in front of the world No 1, Lydia Ko.

“It’s exciting to make the cut in my first LPGA event,” said Dryburgh, who, like Thomson, was born in Aberdeen but now lives in Buckinghamshire. “I’ll try to keep moving up the 
leaderboard as much as possible and hopefully keep the birdies rolling in.” An equally delighted Thomson said: “I hit the ball brilliant again today so I’m pretty happy with how it’s going and I’m looking forward to posting some good numbers on the weekend. I have no expectations really and nobody really knows who I am so I can just play my own game, I’m just happy to be here.”

Elsewhere, Paul Lawrie took over from Doug McGuigan as top Scot in the Dimension Data Pro-Am after carding a 
second successive 69 to sit five off the lead in the Sunshine Tour event at Fancourt.