Scotland bounced back from yesterday’s disappointing start with a 13-shot improvement in the second round of the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf in Australia.
In a low-scoring fourballs session - Denmark led the way with a 12-under-par 60 as they jumped into the lead - Russell Knox and Duncan Stewart posted a 65.
The seven-under-par effort at Kingston Heath in Melbourne lifted the Scots, who’d been last of the 28 teams after slumping to a 78 in the first-day foursomes, into joint-23rd.
In a 17mph wind, Stewart got the Scots off and running by rolling in a 15-foot birdie putt at the third before the Grantown-on-Spey man holed a slightly longer one for an eagle-3 at the eighth.
Knox, the world No 18, then showed his class by hitting a 150-yard bunker shot to within five feet for a birdie at the ninth to take the duo out in 31.
The Scottish No 1 also birdied the 11th, where he hit a tricky downwind wedge to seven feet before Stewart came in again with a birdie at the par-5 14th.
He hit a wedge from 118 yards to eight there and followed that up by making another birdie at the par-13 15th, Kingston Heath’s signature hole.
The Scots had taken a double-bogey 5 there in the opening round after beind plugged in a bunker but revenge was sweet as Stewart hit an 8 -iron to 25 feet and rolled in the putt.
Knox shaved the hole with birdie putts at both the 16th and 17th before holing a 10-footer at the last for a par-4.
“The boys played really solid today and gave themselves two chances of birdie on 13 out of the 18 holes,” reported Keir McNicoll, Stewart’s caddie, in his blog for Gullane Pro Shop.
“Duncan contributed three birdies and an eagle to the team score while Russell was the rock of the team coming in with two birdies and a few crucial pars.
“Getting close to the pins at Kingston Heath is very tricky, especially with the wind blowing, but Scotland should be proud of the performance today.
“With a little bit more luck on the greens, that seven-under-par score could have easily been three or four shots lower.”
On a day when all 28 teams broke par, Danish duo Soren Kjeldsen and Thorbjorn Olesen carded two eagle and eight birdies as they stormed to the top of the leaderboard on 12-under.
“To be honest, I was thinking a little bit about that 59 with the last two holes to go, but 60 was still a great score,” said Olesen, winner of the recent Turkish Airlines Open in Belek.
“Søren got it going by holing his second shot on the third, and then I chipped in for eagle also. So combined, we were very good.”
Team-mate Kjeldsen added: “In terms of temperament, I don’t think we’re that different. But I think game-wise we’re very different.
“Thorbjørn’s very flashy, he hits it very far from the tee and overall has got an amazing game; whereas I’m more like a train, I arrive on time but without too much of the flashy stuff.”
China’s Ashun Wu and Haotong Li are sitting second after a 65 with overnight leaders Spain, represented by Rafa Cabrera Bello and Jon Rahm, a further shot back following a 67.
England, Italy, the United States and France are all five shots behind the leaders. Tied for 18th, hosts and defending champions Australia have 10 shots to try and make up in the final two rounds.
Ross Kellett and Bradley Neil have both secured spots in next week’s Australian PGA Championship, one of two events which mark the start of the 2017 European Tour.
The duo only found out this week that they’d got into the event at the RACV Royal Pines Resort in Queensland but reckon it’s worth giving it a go.
“It’s a long way to go, but I believe I must put myself in these situations to learn the feelings of playing on the European Tour,” said Kellett, who is currently on the Challenge Tour.
“It’s a nice opportunity and I see it as a great learning experience.”
Neil, who will also be playing mainly on the second-tier circuit next season after playing in all six rounds at the recent European Tour Qualifying School in Spain, echoed that view.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to play high-level golf,” said the former Amateur champion.
Pamela Pretswell leapt into the top 10 on the back of a flawless second round as compatriot Kylie Walker slipped down the leaderboard in the inaugural Qatar Ladies Open. Walker, who’d started the day just a shot of the pace in joint-third, dropped 32 spots following a 75 - seven strokes more than her opening effort. However, the Saltire is still to the fore at Doha Golf Club after Pretswell jumped into contention at the halfway stage after a five-under-par 67. On five-under, the 27-year-old is sitting in a share of tenth spot, four behind joint-leaders Lydia Hall from Wales and Dane Nanna Koerstz Madsen.
Starting on the 10th, Pretswell picked up her first shot of the say at the 12th, added a second birdie at the first before signing off with three consecutive gains. “I played nicely and I think I hit all 18 greens in regulation,” said Pretswell, who enjoyed a career-best season by finishing 14th on the LET money-list last year and is the top Scot again in 26th this time around. “I gave myself a few chances on my front but only took one before coming home in four-under, helped by birdies at the last three holes. “I didn’t feel as though I played much differently to how I have been but I holed some long putts.”
Carly Booth joined Pretswell and Walker in making it into the final rounds after carding a second-round 70 to sit alongside Walker on one-under.