Royal Auckland amateur Fraser Wilkin was one-horseshoe putt away from equaling the course record which Josh Munn set last year at the Muriwai Golf Club.

But his superb eight under par 64 in the second round of the ask>metro Muriwai Open was good enough to claim a three shot lead from defending champion Munn and Auckland professional Ryan Fox at the halfway stage of the $40,000 event on the Charles Tour.

Wilkin, who comes to West Auckland on the back of a leading amateur finish at the Taranaki Energy Open, made six birdies and an eagle to set the two round lead at 10 under par.

The Srixon Academy member, who is being coached by Marcus Wheelhouse, was delighted with his fantastic round in the beautifully fine and benign conditions.

“I am absolutely thrilled to shoot a 64,” said the 24-year-old.

“I knew Josh Munn’s course record was 63 and I had a putt on the 8th to get to nine under and it’s taken a big horseshoe, it took a big part of the hole.

“I was disappointed to make par on the last but then pretty happy to see the par putt drop for a 64 as well.”

Former European Tour pro Mark Brown, who was playing alongside Wilkin was impressed by the promising amateur’s scoring.

“It was a pretty impressive round,” said the 37-year-old who has not been at his best with rounds of 72 and 77 to be tied 29th.

“His putting was superb. The greens got a bit bumpy late in the round but he kept rolling them in. It was good to watch.”

Wilkin, who finished runner-up at the NZ Stroke Play, said he felt like he was in for a good round right from the start today.

“I burnt the hole on the first couple of holes for birdie and I knew that the putter felt great in my hand straight away. I knew as long as I gave myself chances I’d be in for a good one today. “

The intermittent New Zealand rep has gone low this year with a nine under 63 at Lochiel to set the course record and has enjoyed a dramatic turnaround in form.

“My game has definitely come a long way in the past couple of months. At the start of the year it really wasn’t looking too good but mentally I wasn’t there and now I feel my game has turned around a fair bit.

“My whole game has turned a corner. I am using more of the club face and I am putting a lot better. Putting has always been a bit of a weakness. I am holing a lot more putts now.

He leads a Charles Tour event for the first time but thinks he’ll handle that pressure fine considering his playing partners in round three are guys he knows well in Fox and Munn.

“I have played a lot of golf with those guys over the past few years especially Foxy and it is just another tournament for me. I have played a lot of these and I am looking forward to it.”

Munn, who blitzed the course in round one again yesterday with a seven under 65, shot an even par 72 to remain on a seven under par total.

“I was a bit nervy on the front nine but I hung in there and I was pretty proud of that,” said the 21-year-old.

“I made double bogey on the first hole and hung in there making a few up and downs on the way around which kept my momentum.

“That is a stunning round from Fraser but I will be on the charge tomorrow.”

Auckland professional Fox one-putted the first six holes of the second round on his way to a four under par 68 to jump into a share of the lead only to be leapfrogged by Wilkin.

The 24-year-old rookie pro, who birdied the final two holes in a howling Sou’ Westerly wind in round one to card a three under par 69, walked off the course shaking his head.

“To be honest, it was a little disappointing,” said the 24-year-old.

“I got off to a really good start and got hot with the putter. I was four under through six holes and made a couple of weak bogeys. I gave myself a lot of opportunities from a lot of fairways and couldn’t take advantage really. “

Fox was playing a game-within-a-game with his playing partner Ko.

The World No.1 followed up her course record five under par 67 with an even par 72 and Fox was pleased to get one over her good mate.

“It’s always great playing with Lydia,” said Fox.

“We have a little competition running, she got me yesterday but I managed to get her today so there might be a little bet running over the weekend.”

The respect is very much mutual.

“He’s really awesome to play with and I played with him in Queenstown. He’s very humourous, we have fun and I don’t think there is any negative to playing with him.

“Our battle will continue through the weekend, I hope we both play well and have a good battle.”

Fox has had a great start to his professional career where he finished fourth in the New Zealand PGA Pro-Am, runner-up at the Taranaki Energy
Open and won the Martinborough Pro-Am to lead the NZ PGA Order of Merit. The key to his good scoring today was his work on the greens.

“I felt really comfortable with the putter and then I hit a poor wedge shot on 16 and lost all of my momentum and struggled to get it back. I managed to make a couple of good putts on four and six and to finish at four was ok.

“Hopefully I’ll be in the last couple of groups tomorrow and I can put some pressure on.“

Also looking to apply some pressure is New Zealand No.3 Michael Hendry. The North Harbour pro carded a three under par 69 to be in a share of sixth place, seven shots back.

“It was pretty solid but I missed some opportunities,” said the 32-year-old.

“I was six back in Queenstown [where he went onto win the NZ PGA Pro-Am]. It is just a matter of capitalizing on the opportunities I am creating. If Fraser goes and runs away with it then good on him but we’ll see how he handles the pressure.”




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