02 Dec 2022 | Australian Open |
Green’s late blitz hands her two shot lead
by Dane Heverin
Hannah Green fed off the energy of packed Friday afternoon galleries at Victoria Golf Club to charge to a two shot lead with a six-under second round of 66 at the ISPS HANDA Australian Open in Melbourne.
As the crowds grew larger and louder, Green’s momentum became unstoppable and the floodgates burst open when she pulled out the driver at the iconic short par-4 15th and let it rip.
The hole was playing down wind and the 2019 KPMG Women’s PGA champion’s ball rolled onto the green, and she duly knocked in the resulting eagle putt.
The very next hole another flushed tee shot led to a birdie at the par-3, but it was at the final hole that she nearly brought the house down.
“I didn’t realise it was so close,” Green said of her second shot into the par-5 which almost went for a first ever albatross of her career.
“It would have been a couple (of inches) away from maybe going in, but honestly, I hit it so far left of where I wanted it to go, so I got pretty lucky there. I actually thought it was going to go in the bunker, so I was very pleasantly surprised. I really would have loved that one to go in.”
Green was so relaxed and in such a good space out on course that she was laughing as she strolled down the 18th fairway toward the green after that shot.
“For some reason I almost thought it hit the pin and I was like, that would have been even funnier, but yeah, I was tossing up between 8-iron and 7-iron and Nate (Blasko, her caddie) said seven, so I’m glad I did, otherwise I would have been in the bunker,” Green said with a laugh.
“(I’ve) never really been close (to an albatross). I’ve had par 5s where I’ve had a wedge in hand and maybe hit it to a couple of feet, but never anywhere sniffing it’s going in. So, that would have been cool. I’ll save it for Sunday.”
Green made birdie in the end to reach the halfway point at 11-under par and her calm demeanour this week is not surprising as she has previously discussed the correlation between her playing good rounds of golf and spending time with her fiancé Jarryd Felton.
Felton was also in action at Victoria on Friday and shot a three-under par round of 67 to be two-under for the championship heading into the weekend, and their time together may be the secret behind Green gaining a reputation as a mixed-gender tournament specialist.
The West Australian won the Vic Open in February - where men and women have played on the same course at the same time for a decade - and she made global headlines as the first woman to win a 72-hole professional event where men and women competed in the same field for the same trophy a week later at TPS Murray River.
She laughed off that notion at her post round press conference however.
“It would be nice to have a three-peat in Australia, but I don't know, I guess it’s just nice,” Green said.
“I get to play with Jarryd. We’ve got some friends here too. A lot of people from back in Perth, so I just feel like it’s a great week. I feel like I’m a lot more tired than I usually am, just because I’ve had some other commitments that I probably wouldn’t if I was playing an LPGA tournament, but so long as it’s promoting golf in Australia, I’m happy to do it.”
One of those commitments is Friday evening’s celebration of 50 years of the WPGA Tour of Australasia at Kingston Heath Golf Club, but on Saturday she will be firmly focused on playing alongside former world number one and two-time AIG Women’s Open champion Jiyai Shin for a third straight day.
The Korean is nine-under par after shooting a four-under par 68 that included seven birdies.
Shin won this event when it was LPGA co-sanctioned in 2013 at Royal Canberra and regularly reminded the crowd of her class on Friday.
Two shots further back in a tie for third are fellow Korean So Yeon Ryu, overnight leader Grace Kim and AIG Women’s Open champion Ashleigh Buhai.
Kim produced an even-par round of 72 at Victoria after her course record 66 at Kingston Heath yesterday, while Ryu and Buhai both shot four-under par rounds of 69 at Kingston Heath this morning.
South African Buhai was bogey free for the day and is leaning on her British major triumph earlier this year for her weekend assault.
“I love sandbelt courses because I like to flight the ball, so you can kind of hit a mid-flight and let it feed out,” she said.
“Obviously it plays a bit like a links and I kind of like links golf, obviously. You have to be very patient. Although it played shorter than I’d say we’re used to on the LPGA, the pins were tucked, so you couldn’t necessarily just flag it. You had to hit it to the right spot and then try and give yourself a decent putt at birdie from there.”
The big crowds at Kingston Heath were also treated to Australian’s Minjee Lee and Stephanie Kyriacou making their move.
The US Women’s Open champion and the LPGA rising star shot three-under par rounds of 70 to be five-under and four-under overall respectively.
Lee has struggled with fatigue in recent months after a jam-packed schedule earlier in the year when she won the Rolex Annika Award for the best player in the five women’s majors, but she feels energised by having the chance to embrace the warm receptions of her adoring fans.
“I have (felt tired) for a few months now but it’s just the end of the year,” she said.
“Your brain kind of goes into holiday mode or shutdown mode I guess, however positively you want to put it. Yeah, I think just over the course of the year you go hard week in, week out and travelling so much, I think that’s what makes the mental part quite tough. But it’s always nice to come back home and play, so just fight it out for one week. It’s nice being here.
“I think we’ve had a pretty great following. This is why we have the tournament, both genders in one venue, so they can watch all of us. I’m sure they’ll have a look here and there and watch the men, watch the women. That’s the beauty of it.”
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