Nitties leads the way at halfway mark in Australia as Senior bows out
Australia’s James Nitties carded a seven-under-par 67 on Friday to take the outright lead at the halfway mark of the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney Golf Club.
The event is the first stop in The Open Qualifying Series, with the leading three players who finish in the top 10 and ties and who are not already exempt booking at place in The 146th Open at Royal Birkdale from 16-23 July, 2017.
The day also saw Australian golfing favourite Peter Senior bow out of the tournament and announce his retirement from professional golf after a nagging hip injury forced him to withdraw. The 57-year-old veteran, who has won 34 tournaments worldwide, had already announced that he would retire following the Australian PGA Championship in his native Queensland in two weeks’ time but his hip pain cut his aspirations short.
Senior found his greatest major success at The Open, earning two top-ten finishes including a fourth place result in 1993 when fellow Aussie Greg Norman lifted the Claret Jug for the second time. He became the oldest-ever winner of the Emirates Australian Open in 2012, 23 years after winning it for the first time in 1989. He is part of a rare group of champions to have won professional tournaments across five different decades and is the only man in history to have won the Australian PGA, Open and Masters tournaments after turning 50. He will retire as one of Australasia’s greatest-ever players.
Nitties delivered six birdies and an eagle against a single bogey on Friday to move to nine-under-par overall and take a single shot lead heading into the weekend. The 34-year-old Melbourne native is in the running to secure his first appearance in The Open if he can maintain his form through to the final round on Sunday.
Kiwi Ryan Fox is aiming for his third consecutive start in The Open and carded a second straight 68 Friday to sit in second place. The 29-year-old son of All Blacks rugby star Grant Fox represented New Zealand in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and had his best Open result in 2015 when he finished tied 45th in St Andrews.
Rhein Gibson holds the third qualifying place for The Open and sits in third place on seven-under-par overall. The 30-year-old earned his major debut through The Open Qualifying Series at the Emirates Australian Open in 2013, and went on the make the cut in The Open at Royal Liverpool in 2014. The Lismore-born Australian is aiming for a maiden professional victory at his home Open.