Peter Senior stepped up and two-putted from “100 feet” at the 18th green at Royal Pines in the Australian Fourball Championships shortly after Marc Leishman turned professional in 2005, and the co-leader at the halfway mark of the Australian PGA Championship has never forgotten it.
With the opportunity to assume the mantle of Australia’s No.1-ranked male golfer by claiming the Joe Kirkwood Cup on Sunday, Leishman’s position at the top of the leaderboard alongside Adam Bland after 36 holes is to be expected but Senior’s spot just inside the top 10 is a shock to all but his fellow professionals.
Leishman and Senior shot matching 67s in the first round and while the No.13-ranked golfer in the world improved his standing with a sparkling 7-under 65 on Friday, Senior had to settle for a 1-under par round of 71 to be 6-under heading into the weekend.
Another fantastic round from @marcleish
— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) December 1, 2017
Defending champion Harold Varner III reignited his three-year love affair with the Gold Coast layout with a 66 to be tied for seventh after two rounds alongside James Nitties and Brett Rankin, three shots behind 2014 champion Greg Chalmers and two behind Cameron Smith, Rhein Gibson and Jordan Zunic who are tied for fourth at 9-under.
Playing in his first four-round tournament in more than 12 months after a last-minute decision to enter, the 58-year-old Senior is taming the lengthy Royal Pines layout in ways the young bombers wouldn’t understand and Leishman, for one, is not discounting what the oldest player in the field might be capable of in the final two rounds.
“One of my first pro events I played was here in the Australian Fourball Championships when it was at Royal Pines,” Leishman recalled. “I remember I was close to winning and I birdied 18 in the last round. Pete (Senior) had about a 100-footer on the 18th green. He had to two-putt to win or a three-putt was going to be a playoff. He two-putted it.
“He’s just such a competitor, it really doesn’t surprise me (to see him in contention). Put him anywhere in any tournament and he’ll fight it out. He’s like a bulldog and it’s so good because he’s such a nice guy, so it’s good to see him back out here.”
Leishman’s 65 could have been even better had he not hit driver off the deck into the water at the par-5 12th and made six along with a bogey at the tough 18th hole, his ninth hole of the day. All told he registered seven birdies and an eagle at the par-5 15th but after the mishap at the 12th said his naturally aggressive tendency will be dependent on the leaderboard over the course of the weekend.
“If you’ve got a four-shot lead or if you’re ahead, definitely you probably wouldn’t go for it,” Leishman said of RACV Royal Pines’ par 5s that are reachable for the big hitters. “But if you’re one back, obviously you probably would. Yeah, definitely position on the leaderboard makes a difference.”