Cronulla’s Scott Arnold is two shots back from Englishman Paul Casey after a morning of hot scoring on the second day of the Emirates Australian Open.
Arnold carded a tidy four under 67 to go with his opening 68 in the milder morning conditions.
Casey, the highest-ranked player in the field, sits at nine under par for the tournament after taking advantage of vastly improved conditions for the second round.
The world No.14 bagged seven birdies – including four straight to close his round – in a six-under-par 65 to vault to the top of a jam-packed leaderboard on Friday.
“I’ve not been able to get it close to any flag for about a day and a half and then suddenly the back nine for me, the last half a dozen holes, I had some really good birdie opportunities,” Casey said.
“I don’t know if it was fully in the zone but it was really nice stuff and it felt really good.
“So suddenly from a case of sort of bumbling around, just a couple under par, challenging for lead, probably in the lead right now; so good stuff.”
Cameron Tringale also collected seven birdies in a 65 that could have been even better had he not made a mess of the par-5 fifth hole, where the American took bogey.
Former British Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen was another to make a major move, with the South African climbing from three to eight to be one stroke adrift of Casey.
Kiwi Daniel Ieremia was the leading Australasian, also at eight under, after posting an equal-morning-best 65.
Overnight joint leader Chun-An Yu was just two shots off the pace after carding a second-round 69.
Former Champion Matt Jones has made a bright start to his second round, adding two birdies to his overnight total to be at six-under. Dimi Papadatos has also grabbed two early birdies to go to six under alongside Jones.
After being in danger of missing the cut following his opening 75, pre-tournament favourite Adam Scott clawed his way back to even par with a round of four-under 67 to all but ensure himself a weekend start.
“It was much, much better than yesterday,” Scott said.
“Hopefully I didn’t shoot myself in the foot with a bad round yesterday and I’d like to play two more rounds and keep working on this.
“You never know, I can have a decent result here and then be in good form going into (the Presidents Cup) next week and the (Australian) PGA.
Friday’s low-scoring came after the bushfire-driven haze that blanketed The Australian Golf Club on Thursday afternoon cleared significantly for the second-round early starters.