Terry Pilkadaris is a three-time Asian Tour winner, however it’s been almost 13 years since he last tasted victory. He is one step closer to ending that drought after back-to-back 64s catapulted the journeyman to the halfway lead of the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open near Queenstown.

Since winning the 2005 Brunei Open, the Melbourne-based pro has endured six podium finishes. The most heartbreaking was a tie for second at the 2015 Made in Denmark on the European Tour where he one poor shot cost him the title.

Pilkadaris, 44, had little to show for the past 12 months, having recorded just one top 10. He had missed three cuts in four appearances this year with a T-40 his best result three weeks ago in Perth. Pilkadaris took a fortnight off to re-charge and emerged to shoot a seven-under 64 at Millbrook yesterday.

Today, he posted an eight-under 64 at The Hills to reach 15 under. His only dropped stroke in two rounds came on the 12th hole today. He rebounded immediately, adding eight birdies to sit a stroke clear of Callan O’Reilly (68-61) and Daniel Nisbet (63-66) at 14 under.

“If it’s your day, it’s your day,” said Pilkadaris, who had two chip-ins late in his round alongside champion yachtsman Sir Russell Coutts.

Australians filled six of the top-eight places on the leaderboard of this pro-am event, which is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia, Japan Golf Tour and the Asian Tour.

Travis Smyth (63-67) is fourth at 13 under. Harrison Endycott (65-66) and Jamie Arnold (68-63) are T-5 along with Kiwi Harry Bateman (64-67) and Japan’s Rikuya Hoshino (66-65) at 12 under.

Another Kiwi, Tim Wilkinson (67-65), is a further stroke back on 11 under.

The cut fell at seven-under par. Among the notables to miss the weekend were New Zealand No.1 Ryan Fox (70-67) and defending champion Michael Hendry (70-69).

With super-caddie Steve Williams on the bag, Fox’s departure was the most disappointing. He made a spectacular eagle 3 on Millbrook’s 17th hole to reach seven under. But, inexplicably, he three-putted the par-3 18th to miss by a shot.

A likely challenger on Sunday is the in-form O’Reilly. However, two years ago the Novocastrian questioned his desire to be a tour pro. He had just failed to earn a playing card at the final stage of Asian Tour qualifying school in Thailand by two strokes. He was homesick and his girlfriend was celebrating her birthday with their friends back home in Newcastle.

On Friday morning in Queenstown, O’Reilly had the type of round ever professional desires. He shot a career-best 11-under 61 at The Hills, which set a new course record. He went out in three-under 33 and came home in eight-under 28. He birdied every hole except the par-4 15th on The Hills’ back nine.

O’Reilly had been on the brink of a super-low score given his form over the past month. The 27-year-old was a quarter-finalist at the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth,  T-5 at the Queensland PGA and T-13 at last week’s NZ PGA.

With $63,462 in earnings so far this year, he admitted to “not feeling any financial pressure”. It gave him the freedom to attack The Hills on another calm day when red numbers were in abundance. The world No.558 also said switching coaches to Gary Barter at The Australian Golf Club had contributed to his positive mindset.

Also in a good headspace was first-round co-leader Nisbet, who followed up his opening 63 with a five-under 66 at Millbrook. Backing up from a hot round is never easy, but Nisbet controlled his emotions, saying: “I tried not to put too much expectation on myself.”