Jason Day revealed his burning desire to win the Emirates Australian Open for the first time after he moved ominously into position just a shot off the lead at the halfway stage in Sydney.
The 30-year-old, who is yet to win this year, fired seven birdies to sign for a 68 that leaves him a stroke behind leader Lucas Herbert.
It might have been even better for Day, but for a late bogey, as Herbert showcased his own talent with the day’s equal lowest round of 66.
Day is back in Australia for the first time in four years – during which time he has seen fellow drawcard Jordan Spieth win the Stonehaven Cup title twice – and after two rounds at the Australian Golf Club few would argue against his chances of lifting one of this country’s most prized pieces of golfing silverware come Sunday.
“I haven’t won this year. This would be a nice little end of the year cap – just to know that it wasn’t such a disappointing year,” he said.
“A win is a win regardless of where you are. To have the Stonehaven Cup on the mantle would be great. I know that I don’t just want to win one of these, I want to win multiple Stonehaven Cups.
“I think it would just be good for me if I could somehow get the win this week. It would be a good kickstart going into next year’s season back on the PGA Tour.
“I know how Jordan has done, from having the confidence from this event, and going forward and winning two majors the year after.”
With Spieth enduring a mixed round for a second successive day, the Texan is eight shots off the pace after a 71, Day has the benefit of a handy buffer from the world number two.
Day admitted, however, that still might not be enough.
“It’s Jordan Spieth,” he said. “If he gets something going at the weekend – he can hole a lot of putt and make a lot of birdies and make a charge. I expect him to make a charge.
“Hopefully I don’t see him in my rear view mirror at all.”
West Aussie amateur Min Woo Lee will have Spieth firmly in his focus after the teenager was paired alongside the defending champion and three-time major winner for Saturday’s round.
Lee carded a 69 on Friday to join Spieth at one under and is set for a memorable day after admitting on the eve of the tournament that he admired the American’s mental toughness.
Nine Western Australians made the cut with last week’s NSW Open winner Jason Scrivener the best placed at three under after a 70 on Friday.
Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open champion Stephen Leaney and Stephen Dartnall were level with Lee at one under with Brett Rumford level with the card.
Curtis Luck, Oliver Goss, Jarryd Felton and veteran Nick O’Hern also booked their places in the weekend action.