Fraser seizes Australian Open lead
Fraser, who has bounced back from career-saving neck surgery, posted a second successive 69 to advance to 6-under-par for the championship and a one-stroke lead.
Fellow Australians John Senden (73) and Brendan Jones (71) trail by one stroke and Nic Cullen (70) is two shots off the pace.
Fraser, after playing on three continents in the past three weeks, rode the momentum of his magical first-day hole-in-one all the way to the halfway lead on Friday.
While he was unable to repeat his first-round ace on the 184-metre par-three 15th hole, Fraser’s five birdies were enough as his heavyweight rivals stumbled.
Fraser suffered from significant neck pain two years ago prior to undergoing an operation that he jokingly referred to as being “pretty basic”.
“The amount of pain I was in leading up to that operation is something that I never want to experience again,” he said.
“If I had not had the operation, there is no way I would have played again – no chance at all.”
The major setback also proved a wake-up call for Fraser, who has recovered to be on the cusp of the world’s top 50 after enjoying a career-best year in Europe.
“I realised how much I loved the game and how much I enjoyed being out here,” he said.
“Sometimes you take it for granted. You need something like that to give you a kick in the butt.”
Apart from getting his hands on the Stonehaven Cup, Fraser is all too aware of the bonuses involved in winning the Open and edging closer to the top 50.
For one, a coveted first-time ticket to next year’s Masters at Augusta is at stake.
“That top-50 world ranking by the end of this year is pretty important,” Fraser said.
“I am already in the British Open for next year after finishing top 30 in Europe this year.
“Hopefully I can sneak a few more WGC events and the US Open. If I play well this week and next week (at the Australian PGA), the Masters is a chance.”
Senden had a rollercoaster round, while English world number four Justin Rose is three shots off the pace with a bunch of players at 3-under after leaking four shots on the back nine.
Their pedestrian performances left a host of players in the mix.
Marc Leishman, Australia’s only winner on the 2012 US PGA Tour, is 2-under after a 72, while pre-tournament favourite Adam Scott is 1-under after a scratchy round of 71.
After feeling embarrassed by his first-day 78, American drawcard Tom Watson thrilled fans with a brilliant bounce-back 68, the day’s equal best, to survive the halfway chop.
Defending champion Greg Chalmers (75) is also at 2-over with Watson.
But fellow two-times champion Robert Allenby missed the cut after racking up a 77.