Victorian Matias Sanchez’s sensational seven-under par second round 64 has handed him a three-shot lead at the halfway mark of the mixed-gender TPS Murray River event at Cobram Barooga Golf Club’s Old Course.
In pursuit of the 24-year-old, who sits at 12-under par for the tournament, are Queenslander Shae Wools-Coob (-9), Victorian Tom Power Horan (-7) and West Australian Hayden Hopewell (-7).
Sanchez made six birdies and eagle on Friday morning as he carried his momentum forward from shooting the equal best round of the afternoon field on Thursday.
Beginning his round from the 10th tee, Sanchez started one shot behind overnight leader Justice Bosio – who is now tied ninth at four-under – but immediately jumped to the top of the leaderboard with an eagle at the 450m par 5.
“It was a bit of a surprise really. I hit driver straight up the middle, had about 210 in and hit this big cut 3-wood to about 25 foot and rolled it in. It was a nice way to start the day,” Sanchez said.
Despite his early heroics, it was the Sandhurst Club member’s only blemish for the day – a bogey at the par-5 15th – that kickstarted his round.
Back-to-back birdies at the next two holes followed by a par at the 18th meant he reached the turn in 33 and from then on, he found another gear.
With two more sets of back-to-birdies at the first and second, and the fifth and sixth, pushing him to seven-under for the day off the back of a piercing ball flight off the tee and a putter running hot on the greens.
“I’ve been hitting a lot of low balls off the tee and keep it in play. Not doing anything silly off the tee and trying to hit the perfect shot. For me, keeping it in play is paying dividends this week.”
Sanchez is yet to register a victory on the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia with his best result coming in October at the season opening WA PGA Championship where he finished tied for seventh after having a share of the lead through 36 holes.
In the five events he has played in between Kalgoorlie and Cobram Barooga, Sanchez’s best finish was tied 25th at the Gippsland Super 6 but he felt as if a good result was just around the corner.
“I’ve been hitting it nicely over the past few events, but I just haven’t been turning that into scores,” he said.
One player who had no issue with capitalising on scoring chances on Friday morning was Power Horan.
The 29-year-old Victorian set a new course record with his nine-under 62 to jump back into contention at seven-under for the tournament.
Power Horan made 10 birdies including six in a row from the fourth to the ninth to finish his round and he was delighted with his efforts.
“I’ve been playing pretty well and hit a few shots pretty close towards the end. The last two holes I made some nice longer-range putts to finish it off,” he said.
The two-time Gippsland Super 6 champion clearly has taken a liking to country golf, but he also has his sights on overseas endeavours.
Power Horan currently sits seventh on the Order of Merit standings but when you narrow the standings down to players who have met the requirement of four starts for the season then he is third.
The top three at season’s end earn a DP World Tour and that lucrative opportunity is forcing Power Horan to make some big decisions regarding his schedule.
“I just got my card on the Asian Tour (via Q School last month) and I’m looking to go play a few events there but I’m so high on the Order of Merit here that I feel like I need to finish the season well. So I’m trying to play every event I can,” he said.
The afternoon meanwhile belonged to Wools-Cobb as he followed up his first round 66 with a 67.
The 26-year-old’s highlight of the day was an eagle at the par 5 15th and he worked his way up the leaderboard until he was within one shot of the lead with two holes to play.
Unfortunately for him a late afternoon downpour blanketed the course and halted his charge as he wrapped up his round with bogeys at the eighth and ninth holes.
Last year’s runner-up Hopewell continued his fondness of Cobram Barooga despite also battling the elements later in the day as he carded a two-under par 69 to go with his 66 from yesterday.
The top-five is rounded out by Victorian Brett Coletta and LPGA players Sarah Jane Smith and Emma Talley at six-under par.
American Talley shot the best round of the day amongst that trio with a 68 that included five birdies.
The highlight of the day came from Victorian Ben Paine who made a hole-in-one at the par 3 9th with a 6-iron from 150m.
Saturday is Yellow Day at Cobram Barooga Golf Club as TPS Murray River is in memory of Jarrod Lyle who passed away in August 2018. Entry is via a gold coin donation to Challenge, supporting kids with cancer, along with various fund-raising initiatives for Challenge. The players will be wearing yellow hats, bucket hats and other items of clothing, and spectators are encouraged to wear yellow too.
The final two rounds will be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo Sports from 2:30pm on Saturday and from 12:30pm on Sunday.