New Zealand Open: Bowditch shoots 65, takes lead

Australia's Stephen Bowditch shot a 7-under-par 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead at the New Zealand Open.

updated: December 01, 2007 08:55 IST
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Australia's Stephen Bowditch shot a 7-under-par 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over compatriot Paul Sheehan at the New Zealand Open after two rounds.

Diagnosed with clinical depression after losing his US PGA Tour card at the end of 2006, Bowditch had an equally poor 2007.

But he found his game on Friday on the rugged Hills course near the southern resort town Queenstown and took the tournament lead with a two-round total of 10-under 134.

Sheehan shot a 67 on Friday while New Zealander Michael Long was in third, another stroke back after also shooting 67.

England's Richard Finch (65) and Scotland's Peter Whiteford (68) were in a group of four tied for fourth at 6-under, four strokes off the lead.

Australian veteran Craig Parry, who had a share of the lead after the first round, had a 74 Friday and is eight strokes back.

One of the rounds of the day came from 71-year-old New Zealander Bob Charles, the first left-hander to win a major when he captured the 1963 British Open.

Charles shot a 68 on Friday, four under par and three under his age.

Charles, who first played the New Zealand Open in 1954, eagled the first hole and had five birdies, a bogey and a double bogey in a round which left him 1-under for the tournament, nine strokes behind Bowditch and well inside the cut line.

"I almost felt 30 years younger out there today," said Charles. "The adrenaline starts pumping with all the competition."

Bowditch had six birdies on the back nine, including four in a row.

"I've been practicing good and doing everything I need to do to compete at a high level but haven't been able to put it on the golf course," Bowditch said.

"The last couple of days I just went out there and had fun, still put in all the work but played like I didn't care to a certain degree."

Bowditch finished in the top 15 on the Nationwide Tour money list in 2005, graduating to the main PGA Tour. But he had a terrible rookie year in 2006 and lost his card.

This year, he played five PGA events on sponsor exemptions, missed the cut in four and withdrew from the fifth.

He played mostly on the Nationwide tour, where his best finish was a tie for 19th in 23 tournaments.

Of those 23 events, he missed the cut in 12, was disqualified once and withdrew from another.