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Marcus Fraser fired a second successive three-under-par 69 on Friday for one-shot lead going into the weekend at the Emirates Australian Open at The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney. Overnight leader John Senden was one over for the day and five under for the tournament in second place with Brendan Jones (68, 71), while a fourth Australian, Nick Cullen (70, 70), was a further shot back.
Two years ago Fraser was told he would never play again unless he underwent a neck operation, but he showed he had fully recovered with five birdies and two bogeys around the the 6,290-metre (6,879-yard) course.
The A$1.25 million tournament, co-sanctioned by OneAsia and the PGA Tour of Australasia, is the penultimate event for both.
"If I hadn't had the operation there is no way I would have played again -- no chance at all," said Fraser, "so it was a pretty easy decision to make."
"He replaced a disc in my neck -- put an artificial one in there, a carbon-fibre cage around the disc and also a metal plate. Just a pretty basic operation ...".
Fraser has played seven weeks in-a-row -- including a failed bid to earn his U.S. PGA Tour card at Q-School -- but the European Tour regular still has a spring in his step.
His tournament actually came alive in the first round at the 11th when he found himself three over for the tournament and already thinking of a flight home to Melbourne.
He birdied the next four holes -- and then aced the par-three 15th -- to ignite his round, and continued the good work on Friday.
"It turned the tournament right around," said Fraser. "Hopefully we can keep the momentum going into the weekend."
The morning starters had the best of the conditions on Friday with the stiff afternoon wind playing havoc with any lofted shot and also further drying the slick green.
Marquee attraction Justin Rose, the world's number four, struggled to a 73 and a share of fifth place, while Adam Scott (71) bettered his opening round by one to stand five shots off the pace.
Indonesia's Rory Hie climbed up the leader board until his last hole, the par-three ninth, when an errant tee shot followed by a mis-hit chip to a tricky ridge left him with a double bogey for a 69 and two under for the tournament.
"I'm pretty happy with what I've done so far and hopefully the next two days will get even better," said Hie.
Veteran American Tom Watson, who won the Australian Open in 1984 -- the year after collecting the last of his eight Majors -- shot 68 on Friday, ten strokes better than his opening round, to comfortably make a cut set at plus four.
Third-placed Cullen, winner of OneAsia's Enjoy Jakarta Indonesia Open earlier this year, could still win the tour's Order of Merit with a strong finish here and at the final event of the season, next week's Australian PGA Championship.
Fellow Australian Matt Griffin, who won the Charity High1 Resort Open, and China"s Liang Wenchong, the Nanshan China Masters winner, are also in the hunt as they go into the weekend at level par.
Defending champion Greg Chalmers is two over for the tournament with it all to do at the weekend.
Scores after round two:
138 - Marcus Fraser (AUS) 69-69.
139 - Brendan Jones (AUS) 68-71, John Senden (AUS) 66-73.
140 - Nick Cullen (AUS) 70-70.
141 - Steven Jones (AUS) 73-68, Mathew Goggin (AUS) 71-70, Justin Rose (ENG) 68-73, Gareth Paddison (NZL) 68-73, Richard Green (AUS) 68-73, Cameron Percy (AUS) 72-69.
142 - Rory Hie (INA) 73-69, Marc Leishman (AUS) 70-72, Kieran Pratt (AUS) 71-71, Brett Rumford (AUS) 73-69, Stephen Allan (AUS) 69-73.
143 - Rodney Pampling (AUS) 74-69, Andre Stolz (AUS) 72-71, Peter Senior (AUS) 75-68, Josh Geary (NZL) 70-73, Matthew Jones (AUS) 71-72, Michael Hendry (NZL) 72-71, Paul Spargo (AUS) 70-73, Kim Felton (AUS) 68-75, Adam Scott (AUS) 72-71, Kyle Stanley (USA) 72-71, Stuart Appleby (AUS) 70-73, Leigh McKechnie (AUS) 72-71.
144 - Won Joon Lee (AUS) 74-70, Matthew Griffin (AUS) 75-69, Matthew Stieger (AUS) 73-71, Stephen Leaney (AUS) 75-69, Daniel Popovic (AUS) 71-73, Jamie Arnold (AUS) 72-72, James McLean (AUS) 72-72, Timothy Wood (AUS) 70-74, Liang Wenchong (CHN) 73-71, Nick O'Hern (AUS) 71-73, Peter Lonard (AUS) 71-73, Matthew Ballard (AUS) 72-72.
145 - Jason Norris (AUS) 74-71, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 72-73, Scott Laycock (AUS) 76-69, Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 74-71, Matthew Millar (AUS) 74-71, Nathan Green (AUS) 73-72, Nick Flanagan (AUS) 69-76.
146 - Greg Chalmers (AUS) 71-75, Tom Watson (USA) 78-68, Brett Rankin (AUS) 74-72, Aron Price (AUS) 72-74, Cameron Smith (am, AUS) 72-74.
147 - Jake Higginbottom (AUS) 74-73, Kurt Barnes (AUS) 71-76, Matthew Giles (AUS) 76-71, Scott Gardiner (AUS) 76-71, Ashley Hall (AUS) 79-68, David Bransdon (AUS) 74-73, Alistair Presnell (AUS) 75-72, Mahal Pearce (NZL) 70-77, Zhou Guo-wu (CHN) 74-73.
148 - Craig Parry (AUS) 75-73, James Nitties (AUS) 77-71, Gavin Flint (AUS) 79-69, Peter O'Malley (AUS) 70-78, Stephen Dartnall (AUS) 76-72, Clint Rice (AUS) 77-71, Damon Welsford (AUS) 72-76, Kalem Richardson (AUS) 78-70, Andrew Kelly (AUS) 71-77.
149 - Nathan Holman (am, AUS) 73-76, Zhang Xin Jun (CHN) 73-76, Peter Cooke (AUS) 78-71, Paul Sheehan (AUS) 74-75, Ryan Haller (AUS) 76-73, Max McCardle (AUS) 79-70, Bronson La'Cassie (AUS) 73-76, Garrett Sapp (USA) 75-74, Daniel Nisbet (AUS) 72-77, David McKenzie (AUS) 76-73.
150 - Robert Allenby (AUS) 73-77, Ouyang Zheng (CHN) 74-76, Aaron Cox (AUS) 81-69, Peter Welden (AUS) 77-73, Michael Choi (AUS) 73-77, Michael Long (NZL) 76-74, Michael Wright (AUS) 74-76, Rohan Blizard (AUS) 76-74.
151 - Mitchell Brown (AUS) 79-72, Vaughan McCall (am, NZL) 77-74, Aaron Townsend (AUS) 75-76, Adam Bland (AUS) 75-76, Peter Nolan (AUS) 77-74, Brendan Smith (AUS) 79-72, Hamish Robertson (NZL) 74-77, Choi Joon-woo (KOR) 75-76, Neven Basic (AUS) 75-76, Steve Conran (AUS) 73-78, Douglas Holloway (NZL) 77-74.
152 - Anthony Brown (AUS) 79-73, Tianlang Guan (am, CHN) 82-70, David Smail (NZL) 73-79, Ryan Fox (NZL) 81-71, Anthony Summers (AUS) 78-74, Tristan Lambert (AUS) 74-78, Christopher Campbell (AUS) 82-70, Park Hyo-won (KOR) 80-72, Oliver Goss (am, AUS) 78-74, Matt Jager (AUS) 73-79, Kim Do-hoon (753) (KOR) 77-75, Andrew Evans (AUS) 77-75, Choi Seong-Jin (KOR) 77-75, Andrew Martin (AUS) 77-75.
153 - Supravee Phatam (THA) 73-80, Steven Bowditch (AUS) 77-76, Adam Crawford (AUS) 77-76, Andy Zhang (am, CHN) 76-77, Brad Shilton (NZL) 74-79, Marcus Cain (AUS) 77-76, Jason Scrivener (AUS) 71-82.
154 - Mark Brown (NZL) 82-72, Craig Hancock (AUS) 76-78, Tyler Hodge (am, NZL) 76-78, Matthew Smith (AUS) 77-77.
155 - Daniel Fox (AUS) 72-83, Brad Kennedy (AUS) 79-76, Ou Zhi Jun (CHN) 80-75, Cao Yi (CHN) 79-76, Marcel Schneider (GER) 78-77, Hu Mu (CHN) 74-81, Choo Tze-huang (SIN) 74-81, Andrew Tschudin (AUS) 82-73, Aaron Pike (AUS) 80-75, Paul Gow (AUS) 80-75, Brody Ninyette (AUS) 84-71.
156 - Heath Reed (AUS) 77-79, Tanutchan Puaktes (THA) 73-83, Pravee Visalkt (THA) 77-79.
157 - Craig Hasthorpe (AUS) 78-79, He Ze-yu (CHN) 78-79.
158 - Han Ren (CHN) 76-82.
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