Grant Forrest leaps into top 10 at Royal Melbourne

Grant Forrest. Picture: Getty
Grant Forrest. Picture: Getty
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CRAIGIELAW’S Grant Forrest moved into contention at the halfway stage as the first-round leaders fell back into the pack on a tough day at Royal Melbourne in the Australian Master of the Amateurs.

Six off the pace after an opening 72, the 2012 Scottish Amateur champion is now just three behind the new leader, American Ben Schlottman, following a second-round 73 for a one-over-par total.

“I ground out a score today and I’m happy to be back in contention,” said Forrest after signing a card that contained two birdies and three bogeys. “I played smart and patient and made a lot of pars out there. It will be exciting to see what the next two days bring.”

Australian Zach Murray, the defending champion, was among those to struggle in the blowy conditions. After opening with a 66 to set the pace, he slumped to an 82 that included a triple-bogey, double-bogey and seven bogeys.

“The wind got up to about 20 mph today,” added Forrest. “We’ve certainly had windier days in East Lothian, but when you combine that with the firmness and speed of these greens, it becomes so tough.”

In fact, the Scot likened this week’s test to the one he faced after qualifying for the 2013 Open Championship on the doorstep of his home in North Berwick. “I would say the greens are as firm, if not firmer, than Muirfield was then,” he observed.

Forrest’s performance so far was praised by Scottish national coach Ian Rae, who is accompanying a four-strong tartan contingent on a trip that will also see them play in next week’s Australian Amateur Championship.

“Grant has been very solid in prep and play,” said Rae. “He has shown good course management and that is the key to this course, which is very hard and fast.

“On very fast greens, they are using the same flags as the 2011 Presidents Cup, so it is tough. But Grant looks great in all departments and he should have a good chance going into last two rounds.”

Drumoig’s Connor Syme is sitting joint-21st on four-over after a 75, while Jack McDonald (Barassie) and Ewen Ferguson (Bearsden) both signed for 76s to sit tied 36th and tied 43rd on six-over and seven-over respectively.

“All the guys looking good, just a little rusty for tournament play in the first event of 2016,” added Rae. “Ewen was three-under after 12 today and Connor and Jack both two-under after 12 yesterday, so all have positive points to work on.”

Schlottman, winner of the Palmetto Amateur in 2015, when he was also the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, leads by one shot after a brace of 71s.

Spearheading the chase are Australian pair Thomas Power Horan (70) and Harrison Endycott (75) as well as Korean Yun Sung-Ho (71).

Elsewhere, Scottish trio Clarke Lutton, Gavin Hay and Craig Sutherland are still in the hunt for Asian Tour cards but James Byrne has crashed out of that race after just two rounds.

Lutton is sitting joint-27th in his stage-one event at Springield Royal in Hua Hin, Thailand, after opening rounds of 72 and 73.

Matching those efforts but at Imperial Lakeview, Hay shares 49th spot in another event and was joined in making the cut at that venue by Craig Sutherland after he added a 72 to an opening 76.

Byrne missed the cut by two shots at Windsor Park in Thailand after error-strewn rounds of 75 and 78.