American Ben Schlottman has learnt plenty in two rounds at Royal Melbourne. Picture: ANTHONY POWTER
The mighty Royal Melbourne rarely lowers its colours for long.
A day after 24 players bettered par on its famous West Course – and the top 11 combined to rip 48 shots out of par – only four found red numbers today in the second round of the Australian Master of the Amateurs.
There was no antidote for the poisonous double bite of a strong southerly wind and bouncy greens as club member Tom Power-Horan shot the day’s best 70 among the early groups out.
And only when American Ben Schlottman matched his first-round 71 later on was his one-under total bettered.
Schlottman, 19, a sophomore at Auburn University, actually feared the worst when he hooked his drive off the first tee in round one and, amazingly, lost his ball en route to a double-bogey.
But 35 holes later, he stands alone at two under after playing a round that felt completely different despite the same total in far tougher conditions.
“That’s a totally different 71 today. I played so much better. The 71 yesterday really felt like a struggle and I just got it in the house and felt like it was a good score for how I was hitting it,” Schlottman said.
“Today, though, I putted the ball wonderfully and didn’t make many mistakes.”
The world No.136 said he’d blown a few tournaments this past college season in the early holes and feared he’d done the same yesterday on a hole renowned for its wide fairway.
“That’s such a bad miss and I just thought, `Here goes another one’,” he said.
“Sometimes you shoot yourself in the foot in the first few holes of a tournament and I’ve done that a bit recently so I was thinking, `Oh no, this is going to be a long time down in Australia’.
“But I’ve learnt a lot at Auburn.
“I showed up the first day for practice rounds here and the first shot I landed on the first green bounced 30 yards over and I had no clue what I was doing.
“But in college golf we play in so many different conditions that you learn to adjust quickly and that helped me a ton to adjust out here.”
Schlottman smiled broadly when asked if he’d seen a golf course play as firm and bouncy as Royal Melbourne did today.
“There’s no kind of ground like this at home. It might be somewhere in the US, but I haven’t seen it.”
And he was quick not to get ahead of himself despite his outstanding haul of five birdies today.
“I’ll just take it a shot at a time, I think. I’m hoping just not to lose a ball off the first tee tomorrow.”
Korea took the lead in the separate “World Cup” teams event thanks largely to a fighting 71 by Seoul’s Sun-ho Yun, who joined Power-Horan and Sydneysider Harrison Endycott (75) at one under.
World No.8 American Aaron Wise held tough on the brutal closing stretch today, going square on the final four holes to stay at even par despite a 77.
He’s tied fifth with South African Paul Boshoff and Melbourne’s Andrew Schonewille, another to thrive in the testing conditions with a 73.
But two other Victorians didn’t fare so well in their own back yard with overnight leader Zach Murray and good mate David Micheluzzi crashing down the leaaderboard with 82 and 81 respectively.
The VIS teammates each finished on four over and were relatively upbeat when they learnt they were only six shots off the pace after starting in the last two groups out.
But they weren’t alone.
No fewer than 20 scores of 80 or worse were recorded with the first-round leaders among the worst hit as conditions toughened during the round.
So tough was the wind that the seemingly innocuous par-three 7th, measuring little more than 130m, was played in a combined 15 over par by the final four groups on course.
Play resumes tomorrow from 8am with entry to Royal Melbourne free.