Nitties leads Estes by one

Updated: December 3, 2004, 2:46 PM ET
Associated Press

COOLUM, Australia -- Former Australian amateur star James Nitties shot a 7-under 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead over American Bob Estes after the second round of the Australian PGA.

The 22-year-old Nitties, playing in his fourth professional tournament, had a 12-under 132 total. Estes, playing in tougher afternoon conditions on the Hyatt Regency resort course, shot a 70 after matching the course record with a 63 Thursday.

"It wasn't even the same game today," said Estes, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour. "I played as well today as I did on Thursday, but the winds were gusting, changing direction, knocking us all around. It was really tough."

Australia's Peter Lonard, coming off a victory Sunday in the Australian Open, was two strokes back after a 65. Australians Craig Parry and Peter O'Malley were another stroke behind at 9 under after 67s.

Nitties and Lonard played about half their rounds in tranquil conditions before late-morning and afternoon gusts made scoring difficult.

American Corey Pavin (70) was 7 under, and Greg Norman (72) was 4 under.

Young Australian star Adam Scott had a 76 to miss the cut by a stroke. He missed a 4-foot birdie putt on 18 that would have kept him around for the weekend.

"My putting was really ordinary," Scott said. "I lost all confidence with it yesterday and in the wind today you had to be putting well to make anything."

"It's a shame, but that's golf. You can't be there all the time and unfortunately this was one of those weeks for me."

One of Nitties' last amateur tournaments was in August in Benton Township, Mich., where he lost a playoff to Ryan Moore in the final of the Western Amateur.

Nitties tied for 20th last month in the Queensland PGA in his pro debut and followed with an 11th-place tie in the New South Wales Open two weeks ago. He tied for 41st in the Australian Open, 13 strokes behind Lonard.

On Friday, Nitties had three birdies on the back nine, which he played first, then added four more on the front, including two of the final three holes. He rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt on the second hole, then chipped in on the par-3 third.

"Being up there this early is a great experience as a pro as much as it was as an amateur," said Nitties, the 2003 New Zealand Amateur winner.

Lonard's 65 put him in position to win his third tournament in a row. He won the New South Wales Open before successfully defending his Australian Open title last week at The Australian in Sydney.

"Hopefully, it promises good things for the weekend," Lonard said. "The way I am chipping and putting at the moment, everything's coming together nicely."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press