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Popovic Has Company atop Australian PGA Championship Leaderboard


First-round leader Daniel Popovic now shares the lead after 36 holes of the Australian PGA Championship. The $1.3 million tournament, which was first played in 1905, began Thursday at Palmer Coolum Resort on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

The 26-year-old Popovic followed up his opening 8-under 64 with a 70 to reach 10-under 134, the same total as that of China's Xin Jun Zhang, who's carded two consecutive 67s.

Two strokes back are a pair of Aussies, Geoff Ogilvy (67 and 69) and Matthew Griffin (69, 67).

Popovic was cruising along on Friday. At one point he'd forged a five-shot lead following four birdies on his first 10 holes. But Popovic, who won the 2012 Australasian PGA qualifying school, double-bogeyed the par-5 12th and got pars the rest of the way.

Despite shooting six strokes higher than on Thursday, Popovic is ready for the weekend. "I am stoked," he said. "I can't get the smile off my face since I finished the round. It's an unbelievable experience. I am lost for words explaining it."

Zhang, who plays on both the European and Asian tours, carded eight birdies and three bogeys, needing only 22 putts in the second round. "I felt good today, I am getting used to this layout and to the wind," Zhang said through a translator.

Ogilvy is aiming for a high finish this week to get into the top-50 in the world rankings and earn an automatic spot in next year's Masters. He's currently 56th, and it looks like the 2006 U.S. Open champion will need to place third or higher to assure another trip to Augusta National.

"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.

"I feel like I am in a good place. 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."

Peter Senior, a 53-year-old who plays regularly on the Champions Tour and won last week's Australian Open, shot a 70 and is tied for eighth, four back of the leaders. British Open champion Darren Clarke carded a 69 and is five strokes behind, while South African and PGA Tour regular Rory Sabbatini had a 68 to make the cut.

For all the scores, visit http://championship.pga.org.au/scores.