Jack Nicklaus, the most famous 46-year-old to ever have won a golf tournament, has given Catriona Matthew his full backing in her quest for a second ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open title.
Twenty years after she won the event that kick-started her wonderful career, the Scottish veteran is in the mix to win the tournament again on a packed leader board at The Grange in Adelaide.
Nicklaus, holder of a record 18 major titles, famously won the Masters in 1986 at the same age, and today offered Matthew his support to follow suit.
“Hang in there and don’t give up, finish strong! Everyone wrote me off at 46!” Nicklaus tweeted.
Matthew, who shares the lead at eight under with England’s Holly Clyburn, wasn’t daunted by her birth certificate a full 20 years after she won the Patricia Bridges Bowl at Yarra Yarra in 1996.
“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,” she said. “Age isn’t a barrier.”
China’s Xi Yu Lin, Germany’s Caroline Masson, South Korean Jenny Shin and Japan’s Haru Nomura are next best at seven-under after a day marked by tough afternoon conditions.
A host of elite players remain in contention, with local hopes headed by five-time winner Karrie Webb at six-under, just two shots from the lead.
Webb played before enormous, adoring crowds in her first visit to play in Adelaide since she was a teenage amateur, but Australia’s top-ranked player Minjee Lee endured a tough day and a 76 left her just inside the cut line at two over.
World No.1 Lydia Ko is four shots back after a second-round 70, still nicely poised after what she regarded as a “tough day” on the course.
Ko, the defending champion, said the breezy conditions made it tough to decide whether to attack or play safe.
World No.9 Ha Na Jang, of South Korea, is three from the lead after a 70, and world No.11 Brooke Henderson, of Canada, also has remained in contention at three under.
First-round leader SooBin Kim fell away, adding a 77 to her opening course record 63, leaving her tied 11th at four under.
Among those prominent players to miss the two-over-par cut were American Cheyenne Woods and Briton Laura Davies; 77 players will play into the weekend.