Catriona Matthew is heading into the weekend tied for the lead in the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open in Adelaide.
Bidding to regain a title she won exactly two decades ago, the 46-year-old from North Berwick backed up her opening 67 with a 69 today at The Grange.
Matthew’s eight-under-par halfway total was matched by Holly Clyburn after the Englishwoman catapulted herself up the leaderboard with a second-round 65.
The British pair hold a one-shot lead over Germany’s Caroline Masson (66-71), China’s Xi Yu Lin (70-67), Korean Jenny Shin (67-70) and Japan’s Hara Nomura (69-68).
World No 1 and defending champion Lydia Ko (70-70) is four shots back along with overnight leader SooBin Kim (63-77), as is Kylie Walker after the only other Scot in the field opened with the same scores.
Lying joint-fourth overnight, Matthew was out in level par after starting at the tenth before starting for home with an eagle at the par-5 first.
The 2009 British Women’s Open champion gave one of those shots back straight away before picking up back-to-back birdies at the third and fourth.
“I’m delighted,” admitted Matthew afterwards. “When I played my practice round on Tuesday, I thought it was a tricky course.
“Some of the fairways are quite generous but you’ve really got to try and hit the greens, and that’s what I’ve done the first few days.”
Matthew’s win in this event in 1996 - at Yarra Yarra - was her first title triumph in the professional ranks.
“Not a whole lot,” she admitted when asked for her recollections of that victory. “Lotte Neumann and I were up there, if I can remember, and I just edged her out.”
This is Matthew’s 22nd season on the LPGA Tour and she shows no signs of losing her competitive edge, having finished in the top 40 in her two events so far this year.
“I think that’s the beauty of golf, you can play, it doesn’t matter what your age is as long as you can hit the golf ball and still get it in the hole. Age isn’t a barrier,” she insisted.
“I would say my game is getting better actually, I mean it has to, the standard’s improved so much over the 20 years. You’re always working on something, you’re never happy as a golfer.”
While husband Graeme and daughters Katie and Sophie are at home in North Berwick, Matthew is not lacking support this week.
“My brother, David, lives in Sydney is down along with my mother, Joan, who’s visiting him, so it’s a little family reunion,” she said, smiling.
Clyburn, who played in the 2011 Curtis Cup at Nairn, burst out of the blocks in her second round, starting with an eagle then adding birdies at the second, fourth, fifth and ninth to be out in 30.
She then followed eight straight pars by finishing with a birdie in continuing the sparkling form that saw her come through the Qualifying School to win a card for the LPGA Tour this season.
Bouncing back from two missed cuts on her early-season trip Down Under, Walker had an eagle-2 on her card for the second day running, the one at the 18th coming after she’d also achieved that feat at the 11th on Thursday.
“This one was with a 58-degree wedge - a nice way to finish my round!” declared Walker, who is excited about the final two rounds.
“It’s great to see fellow Brits up at the top of the leaderboard and I’m looking forward to the weekend,” added the two-time LET winner.
Stephen Gallacher is sitting in the top 20 heading into the final two rounds of the Maybank Championship after returning to form in Malaysia to end a run of three missed cuts in a row on the European Tour.
The 41-year-old bounced back from starting his second round at Royal Selangor in Kuala Lumpur with a double-bogey 6 to card a one-under 70 that left him sitting joint-18th on four-under-par.
“I played well again today,” said Gallacher, who quickly repaired that early damage with an eagle - his second of the tournament - at the par-5 third and also bagged three birdies.
“If a few rubs of the green had gone my way, I could have been sitting on seven or eight-under, so I’m starting to feel much more positive than of late.”
Thai-based Simon Yates joined Gallacher in making it to the weekend on one-under (71-70) but there were early exits for both David Drysdale (71-72) and Marc Warren (73-73) on one-over and four-over respectively.
Australian Nathan Holman doubled his one-shot overnight lead after backing up a first-round 64 with an equally solid 65.
Englishman Richard Bland (66-65) is leading the chase, with his compatriot and Dubai Desert Classic winner Danny Willett (65-69) three shots further back in joint-third.
***Scott Henry emerged from an up-and-down day to sit as the leading Scot after the first round of the Sunshine Tour’s Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt.
Playing on the Montagu course, the 28-year-old raced to the turn in 32, four-under, before picking up his fifth birdie of the round at the tenth.
His momentum was halted, though, by three dropped shots in a row straight after that gain before a bogey at the last left him having to settle for a one-under-par 71.
That left the former Scottish Stroke-Play champion sitting in joint-59th, just ahead of compatriot Jamie McLeary after he carded a 72 on the same layout.
“I was pretty rubbish today,” said McLeary of his first effort since finishing in the top 10 in the Tshwane Open in Pretoria last weekend. “I didn’t do anything well at all, but hopefully I can do better during the rest of the event.”
Bradley Neil, the third Scot in the field, started with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the Quteniqua course as he had to settle for a six-over-par 78 to sit joint-148th. “apart from two bad holes, I played pretty decent,” said the 2014 Amateur champion. “But I now need a couple of low ones.”
South African pair Brandon Stone and Jaco Van Zyl share the lead with Italian Francesco Laporta after they all shot seven-under 65s on the Quteniqua layout.
Scott Borrowman is facing a race against time to be fit for the start of the PGA EuroPro Tour season after missing six weeks’ practice due to a wrist injury.
The former Scottish Youths’ champion has already had to scrap plans to play on the Med Tour, where he recorded a maiden professional win in Egypt last March.
“I picked up the injury in early January and it’s just through too much practice,” said Borrowman, who turned professional last year at the age of 28.
“I tried to come back to early and made it worse than before. It’s been six weeks so far and I’m still a few weeks from full practice .
“I can putt - which needed work anyway - but the injury has put a stop on me going to Egypt for the Med Tour this year and I need to be back to full fitness in time for the PGA EuroPro Tour starting or I can risk losing a season.”
The third-tier circuit stages its Qualifying School in early April at Frilford Heath, where the first regular event of the new season also takes place the following month.
“I have category 11 membership and that played every event last year, but I may go to Q School and improve on that if injury doesn’t stop me,” added Borrowman.
“My aim for this year is to build some consistency into my results. I need to make my bad golf more manageable so I can compete when not playing my best.”
Stirling University finished joint-seventh out of 15 teams in The Prestige, an event at PGA West in California featuring all of the top American college players.
“Another fantastic learning experience,” said Dean Robertson, who accompanied a team consisting of Craig Howie, Marco Iten, Chris Maclean, Laird Shepherd and Mathias Eggenberger. “I felt we showcased out skills very well and got stronger as week went on.”
Louisiana State University won by 18 shots with a 26-under 826 aggregate. Spaniard Jon Rahm, the world No 1, helped Arizona State finished second.
Recovering well from an opening 76, Wallace Booth closedf with sub-par efforts of 69 and 68 to finish eighth in an Evolve Tour event at Lo Romero Golf Club in Alicante.
With a three-under total, the Eisenhower Trophy-winning team member finished just four shots behind the joint winners, German Florian Fritsch and Jordan Gibb from England.