Moyola Park’s Chris Selfridge was the only Irish player to break par as Australia’s Brady Watt shot a sensational 10 under 62 to grab the lead in the Ten Nations Cup in South Africa.
The Irish Close and East of Ireland champion made six birdies as stormed to the turn in five under par at Kingswood Golf Estate but then dropped four shots in his last five holes for a one under 71.
Despite the disappointing finish, the Toledo based player moved up to tied 11th in the individual standings in George, 11 shots behind runaway leader Watt on two under par.
Ireland slipped to joint seventh in the team standings on four over, 18 shots behind co-leaders Australia and Scotland, as Reeve Whitson (76), Harry Diamond (75) and Richard O’Donovan (78) all struggled.
But there were no struggles for 22-year-old Royal Perth man Watt, who had six birdies and two eagles in an incredible round to lead the event by seven shots on 13 under par.
According to the South African Golf Association:
Watt’s superb effort - supported by 70s from team-mates Geoff Drakeford, Lucas Herbert and Ryan Ruffels - also helped Australia make up a 14 shot deficit with a total score of 202 that bumped the team into a share of the overall lead with Scotland on 14-under-418.
James White birdied four of his last six holes, but his 67 fell one stroke short of giving Scotland the outright lead. Graeme Robertson (69) and Frazer McKenna (71) produced the other counting scores for Scotland’s 207.
England’s Max Orrin (66), Toby Tree (71) and Jamie Rutherford (71) combined for a 208 and the team’s 36-hole total of 420 will see them start the third round just two shots behind the leaders.
Overnight leaders New Zealand (215) slipped to a share of fourth on 424 with Argentina (212), while Colombia (217) finished in sixth place on 431.
France (221) and Ireland (222) are tied for seventh on 436.
South Africa needed a solid performance after a disappointing start, but local hopes were dashed when Haydn Porteous carded a 75, Zander Lombard a 77 and only new cap Louis Taylor managed to break par with a 71 for a combined score of 223.
The local side are ninth on 440 and will start the third round 22 shots off the pace.
Meanwhile Watt was delighted to help his side achieve what they set out to do.
“We were a little disheartened after the first round,” he explained. “We knew we needed a huge effort to get make up seven shots on the leaders, so we had a little team chat before the round.
“We all committed ourselves to giving it our best shot to get back into contention, but having a share of the lead at the halfway point is a huge bonus. It’s definitely going to motivate us to keep it going over the next two rounds and try to win the Cup on Friday.”
In 2012, Watt enjoyed a meteoric rise in the world amateur rankings with four victories and seven runner-up finishes and kept his form going with solid performances in 2013. He launched from 140th in the world to fourth in six months and reaching his career best position coincided with his selection to the Golf Australia’s National Squad for the Ten Nations Cup last week.
“You can’t put a value on international experience, so I was thrilled to be selected for the team and be given the chance to play in the Ten Nations Cup and the SA Stroke Play next week,” Watt said.
A birdie at the first and back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth got Watt’s round going and by the time he holed out for the eagle at seven, he knew he would post a solid score.
“I really struggled to read the greens in the first round,” Watt said. “They are very tough to read and it’s pretty tricky to get the pace right. I got a better grip on the lines and the pace today. I felt like I had their measure then I knocked in a longish putt at the fourth for birdie and the eagle at seven.”
The birdie run continued at the par-five seventh, where he hit a solid drive, knocked a six-iron to 20-feet and drained the putt. After a chip-and-putt birdie at the par-four eighth, Watt holed an eight-footer at the next par-four for birdie to turn in 30.
He rode a hot putter to more birdies at eight, nine and 12 and knocked in a 30-footer for eagle at the 16th.
“There weren’t that many opportunities on the back nine, but I managed to pick up another birdie at the 12th and at the 16th, I hit a really good drive and a really good two-iron to 30-feet. The putt had a long break but I felt pretty confident that I had the right line and pace and it was great when that one dropped, too.
“It was a great round out there and I just have to keep the momentum going now for the team.”