CHARLESTOWN’S Jake Higginbottom is preparing to play in front of the biggest crowd of his career on Saturday when he tees off alongside golden boy Adam Scott at the Australian Open.
After two rounds at The Australian in Sydney, Higginbottom is ninth on the leaderboard at two under par.
Friday was a moving day for the 21-year-old as he carded a two-under 69 to follow his 71 on Thursday.
Scott also bounced back from disappointing opening 74 on Thursday in style, to card three birdies and an eagle in a flawless 66.
The 2011 champion Greg Chalmers leads the field at five under through rounds of 71 and 66.
Alongside Northern Ireland’s defending champion and world No.1 Rory McIlroy, Scott is the biggest name at the Open and the box office draw.
It will be the first time Higginbottom has played alongside the world No.3 and 2013 US Masters champion.
Joining Scott and Higginbottom at the 11.29am tee off will be Queensland’s veteran US PGA cardholder Rod Pampling.
‘‘Obviously playing with a guy like Adam Scott is going to make me pretty nervous on the first tee, but I’m sure I’ll calm down and be fine,’’ Higginbottom said.
‘‘I guess it’s better playing with the crowd than in front or behind it.
‘‘It’ll be a good test and great to watch him as well.’’
Higginbottom is no stranger to large galleries at the Aussie Open.
In 2012 he played alongside World Golf Hall of Famer Tom Watson and Chalmers in the opening two rounds at The Lakes.
Due to his battle to retain his Asian Golf Tour card, Higginbottom was forced to miss the Australian Masters last week.
However, there was never any chance of Higginbottom missing the Open at the Australian, a course he has been a member of since he was 17.
The familiarity of the inner-city course assisted Higginbottom on Friday as he completed an even-par front nine, before sinking birdies on the 14th, 17th and 18th. The sole blemish came on the 15th.
‘‘Scoring has been difficult,’’ he said.
‘‘The course has been set up as a par 71 when it’s usually a par 72.
‘‘It’s just playing really long and there aren’t any holes where you get to ease off and have a wedge in your hand. There’s lots of holes you need a five or six iron, so it’s hard to get it close and hold a putt.’’
It was a tough day for the Hunter’s other golfers at the Open.
Charlestown’s Aaron Townsend climbed to 25th on the leaderboard at one over when he followed his first round of 73 with one-under 70.
James Nitties (Charlestown), Nathan Green (Toronto) and Leigh McKechnie (Waratah) are bunched together at two over.
Toronto’s Callan O’Reilly is a shot behind at three over after rounds of 74 and 71.
It was a disappointing day for Belmont’s Corey Hale in his Open debut as he shot 76 to drift to seven over and miss the cut by three strokes.
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