Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn was a model of consistency as he tamed Royal Melbourne with a three-under 68 to take a one-shot lead after the second round of the US$8 million World Cup of Golf yesterday.
The gritty 42-year-old bogeyed his first and last holes, but was rock solid in between as he rolled in five birdies to finish with an eight-under total of 134, one ahead of joint overnight leader Kevin Streelman of the US.
“I kind of patiently worked my way through the round,” European Tour veteran Bjorn told reporters. “On the back nine, I played awesome ... Maybe a bit unfortunate [on] the last hole.”
Already uncomfortably fast in Thursday’s opening round, Royal Melbourne’s greens were rendered devilish during a second straight day of warm sunshine and persistent breezes as less than a third of the field finished under par.
Seemingly well-directed approach shots charged past the hole and players sweated over three-foot putts with trepidation bordering on fear.
Along with Bjorn, Streelman was among the few to handle the conditions well and charged out of the blocks to birdie his opening four holes.
He had the wind taken out of his sails, though, when he dropped three strokes in two holes midway through his round.
Following his first bogey on the eighth, Streelman pulled his second shot into a greenside bunker on the long par-four ninth and ended up with a double-bogey after missing a putt from 12 feet.
“I knew as soon as it went right of that pin I was toast,” Streelman said of his eight-iron approach. “That’s the mistake you can’t make around this golf course, and I know better than that and it bit me.”
Australia’s Jason Day (70) and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos (69) were tied for third, four strokes behind Bjorn, with Matt Kuchar of the US (68) among a group of four players a further stroke adrift.
Sixty players are competing for individual honors for the first time at the biennial World Cup, which was previously solely a team tournament.
Twenty-six two-man teams are also competing, with the best aggregate scores after four rounds of stroke-play determining the winning nation.
World No. 7 Kuchar, who won the last World Cup for the US in 2011 with Gary Woodland in China, patiently worked himself back into contention with a solid 68.
That propelled the US into the lead for team honors on 10-under, three strokes ahead of Denmark’s Bjorn and Thorbjorn Olesen (72).
Australia’s Day and Adam Scott were tied for third with Japan’s Hideto Tanihara (67) and Ryo Ishikawa (71), a further four strokes adrift.
World No. 18 Day, who is still grieving over eight relatives killed when Super Typhoon Haiyan pounded the Philippines earlier this month, grafted to a one-under, but felt cheated after lipping out on several holes.
“This course can make you want to snap your clubs over your knees, but it is really hard to control that frustration sometimes,” the 26-year-old said.
Former world No. 1 Vijay Singh shot a 69 to be eight off the pace.
A day after being punished with a quintuple-bogey nine at the 12th hole, world No. 2 Scott carded a 68, but remains nine strokes behind Bjorn, along with former major winner Graeme McDowell (71), who is representing Ireland.