Ogilvy moves into contention

Tour rookie Daniel Popovic maintained his two-stroke lead midway through the second round of the Australian PGA while former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, chasing a possible U.S. Masters berth for next year, moved into a tie for second place after a 3-under-par 69.

Popovic, who nearly gave up golf earlier this year to care for his seriously ill father, followed his opening 64 with a 70 Friday, including a double-bogey seven on the par-5 15th. The first-round leader had a two-round total of 10-under 134 on the Palmer Coolum resort course.

Ogilvy and Matthew Griffin (67) were tied for second. Fellow Australians Matt Goggin (66) and Steven Bowditch (67) were among those tied for fourth, three strokes behind.

Former British Open champion Darren Clarke shot 69 and was five strokes behind Popovic.

Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, is aiming to finish in the top 50 year-end world rankings which would guarantee him a spot in next year’s U.S. Masters. Current projections show Ogilvy would have to finish third or better at Coolum.

”I don’t know if it has to be first to get into the top 50, but it probably has to be first two or three,” Ogilvy said. ”I don’t study world rankings that much. But that would be a bonus, winning the tournament would be the best part but if that was a side bonus that would be good.”

He’s confident heading into the weekend.

”I feel like I am in a good place,” Ogilvy said. ”It’s nice I will be in one of the last few groups tomorrow and if I can have a good score, maybe get right up there after tomorrow and give it a crack on Sunday.”

Bowditch, who grew up locally and his family still lives at nearby Peregian Beach, says he’s taken plenty of confidence from securing his U.S. PGA Tour card for next year at the recent qualifying school in California.

His final round on the Monday was nerve-wracking when he went to 3-over on the day early and was dropping quickly out of the top 25 that secure their cards for 2013.

”Q School is one of the most demanding golf events I have ever had to play,” Bowditch said. ”I just got off to a bad start and it was going sideways, going downhill really quick. I learned a lot about myself in that back nine. It was more pressure than I have ever had in any given time at any moment.”