Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Micheluzzi, Windred go 1-2 at Aussie Am as match-play starts
David Micheluzzi (Golf Australia photo)
David Micheluzzi (Golf Australia photo)
MELBOURNE, Australia (Jan. 16, 2019) – It’s a truism that great stories can come at any point among the top 64 men who qualify for the Australian Amateur match play.

But at the top and bottom of tomorrow’s batting order are the undoubtedly top two yarns of day two.

World No. 8 David Micheluzzi set a second course record in as many days to stamp his authority on the national championship he so covets and win the medal by an astonishing seven shots at 16 under.

At the other end of the day, and with qualifying’s very last putt, St Michael’s youngster Harrison Crowe remarkably took the 64th and last match play berth for the second year running.

Crowe had been 5-over par for the tournament through 27 holes and thinking about his flight home to Sydney.

Four hours later, he’d made the third and final birdie of an 11-man playoff with a curling downhill putt on the first at Woodlands to breathe life into his campaign.

“After nine holes today I was looking really ordinary, (but I) had 4 under on the back nine and had to make a birdie up the last just to get into the playoff,” Crowe said. “To hole that (playoff) putt there down the hill felt really good. I just ground it out, tried to make birdies and pushed … and it worked out in my favor. I made it tough for myself two years in a row, but I’m still here and still going.”

Crowe knew instinctively that his heroics set up a Thursday morning clash with Victorian powerhouse Micheluzzi.

“I know he’s had 16 under … but anything can happen in match play and I just need to play my own game and see what happens tomorrow.”

Micheluzzi, off an 8-under 63 at Spring Valley on Tuesday - an amateur course record - couldn’t find the bottom of the cup early after teeing off 10, carding seven pars to begin his round.

But the 22-year-old caught fire from the 17th, rattling off an astonishing seven birdies and an eagle in his next nine holes.

The Australian Open joint low amateur was left with a putt on the ninth hole, his last, for a round of 63 and to hold the Woodlands course record alone, but it wasn’t to be.

But the Victorian’s second straight 8-under round shot him to 16 under and locked up stroke play honors.

“I felt like I had no idea what I was doing – I felt like I was on repeat,” Micheluzzi joked post-round. “From 17th to seventh hole, it felt like it went for an hour and it probably went for two and a half hours, it just went so quickly.

“Some shots I don’t really remember hitting. I must have been so in the zone that nothing could stop me which is pretty cool.”

With Min Woo Lee turning pro this week, Blake Windred has become Australia’s second-highest ranked amateur - and he played like it on Wednesday.

The New South Welshman followed Micheluzzi into the clubhouse with a 7-under 65 of his own to sit outright second on the standings at 9 under.

That means Australia’s top two men will enter the match play as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.

Also carding stunning 65s at Woodlands were international duo Conor Purcell, of Ireland, and Canada’s Joey Savoie, leaving them in a share of third at 8 under. Germans David Rauch, Michael Hirmer and Jannik De Bruyn and Kiwi young gun Daniel Hillier round out the top five at 7 under.

A quartet of Victorians, including in-form Andre Lautee, hold a share of ninth at 6 under.

Micheluzzi’s playing partner and his conqueror in last year’s final, Japan’s Keita Nakajima, ground out a solid 3-under 69 on Wednesday to keep his hopes of going back-to-back alive.

His Japanese compatriot Ren Yonezana also fired a course-record equalling 8-under 64 to forge his way into the match-play following his 5-over 76 at Spring Valley yesterday.

At the end of regulation play, 61 players on even par advanced automatically to the match-play phase, leaving 11 men to battle for the final three spots.

Remarkably, three birdies on the first hole meant New South Welshmen Crowe and James Conran, plus Queensland-based Japanese Yuji Sekito, advanced. Conran will have the chance to emulate his father, long-time professional Steve, who won the 1989 Australian Amateur at Victoria.

The men’s match play Round of 64 begins tomorrow at Woodlands with the first tee time 7: 30 a.m. with the women’s Round of 32 from 12 midday.



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