26-year-old Daniel Popovic takes a two stroke lead into today’s second round of the Australian PGA Championship presented by Coca-Cola after firing a round of 64 at Palmer Coolum Resort yesterday.
The young Victorian showed up his more experienced rivals in an impressive display of skill, at one stage carding five consecutive birdies on his way to an 8-under par total.
Playing his first year on the PGA Tour of Australasia after winning Qualifying School at the end of 2011, Popovic said he has already had the “best week of his life,” the 64 coming only two days after he had the opportunity to play with fellow Victorian Geoff Ogilvy who is currently in third.
“He was so nice and so down to earth and gave me so much advice… it was like I’d known him for five years,” said Popovic of Ogilvy.
Prior to Monday, Popovic’s best round on the PGA Tour of Australasia in 2012 was a 67 in the first round of the QLD PGA Championship, but the Lower Templestowe local said he feels like his game is good enough to stay competitive throughout the week.“That was some of the best golf that I have ever played in my life and there were times there that I was even surprising myself at how confident I was with the way that I was hitting it.”
Speaking to media with wisdom and experience well beyond his 26 years, Popovic spoke of his parents Radi and Mila, and his motivation to perform well on the biggest stage.
“My mum and dad will be over the moon, my dad will be in tears and so will my mum,” he said.
“My father earlier on in the year found out that he has cancer and it really shook me around a lot and it still sort of does when I think about it.
In second place at 6-under par is West Australian Scott Strange who has struggled with consistency, battling his own demons and family tragedy.
“I lost my sister to cancer and had a few other problems with my mum and dad; it just took a while to process all of that. I was over in Europe and it was hard to deal with stuff when you are a long way from home – you can’t go and talk to your family. I’m a completely different person now and I’m in a better place,” said Strange who is unfortunately without status on the European Tour after missing at the recent Q School.
“At Q School I played pretty bloody good and didn’t really roll too many putts in. If I managed to roll putts in there I would have had my European card back, but that’s the nature of the beast. Live by the sword, die by the sword.”
2008 Australian PGA Champion Ogilvy sits a further stroke back from Strange, two eagles helping the Victorian to at 5-under par total.
Also hitting headlines early in the day was Greg Norman, who was forced to withdraw from the Championship and seek medical attention after being struck down by a bout of food poisoning.
“While we’re obviously disappointed for the fans who love to see Greg play in Australia, Greg was very unwell and we wish him a speedy recovery,” said Brian Thorburn, CEO of the PGA of Australia.
The second round of the Australian PGA Championship got underway at Palmer Coolum Resort at 6.00am this morning.
For more information visit the tournament website at http://championship.pga.org.au.