Friday, January 22, 2010

Ashley Hall leads by three in NZ PGA Championship

It has been a big turnaround for Australian golfer Ashley Hall after bouncing back from a poor run of form to holding a decent lead over the field at the New Zealand PGA Championship at Clearwater in Christchurch.
The Victorian holds a three-shot lead at seven under par 137, and he will likely keep it after hitting a three-under-par second round of 69, one shot better than his first round.
After an average start to the year, it is exactly the kind of round Hall needed to get his confidence up and get in contention for a much-needed title.
"Until yesterday I don't think I've shot under par competitively since the European Tour School in the final stages," he said.
"That was in late November so it's a good change of fortune really."
"At the start of this year I didn't do so well but I'm going to have to now."
Hall hit five birdies during his round and was well on his way to a near-perfect round before losing a ball at the 17th to shoot a double bogey.
Hall said the 17th was the only hole he was disappointed in during the day where he lost a ball off the tee and had to settle for a double bogey 6.
"That was the only real bad shot I've hit all week, so far so good," he said.
"We're playing into the wind and it's totally opposite to yesterday and I just hit it too far left and it didn't get it over the hazard. Well, we don't know if it went in the hazard or not because we couldn't find it. I went back to the tee and made six."
Hall felt right at home in the wet and rain as he comes from Melbourne where the weather has the ability to turn at any time and said it is all about 'playing smart' and taking rare opportunities as they arise.
"It was windy and drizzly when we teed off this morning so we haven't had it easy," he said. "It can rain and be as windy as much as it likes, as long as we're out there it's fine by me.
"In Melbourne we often have four seasons in one day and it's totally changeable back home so this is fine. "
"You've just got to be a little bit smart and make advantage of some holes when you can. Some of the fives were a little bit tricky today so it's just about playing smart."
Hall's only downfall was some wayward drives that he had to constantly make up for with accurate putting.
He admits it is an area of his game that he will have to improve before the third round on Saturday if he wants to be in contention on the final day.
"I was in the rough a bit today off the tee but recovered, so I will need to drive it straighter tomorrow," he said.
"The course is short enough that I'm able to drive a long way down and wedge in so if I hit it a bit straighter I could go really well."

Par 144 (2x72)
Players from New Zealand unless stated
137 Ashley Hall 68 69.
140 Anthony Doyle 71 69.
141 Stephen Allen 72 69, Mitchell Brown 68 73, Grant Moorhead 67 74, Gareth Paddison 70 71.
Selected scores
149 Eddie Barr (Ireland) 71 78.
156 Jonathan Bevitt (England) 75 81.
Field of 144 players.



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