Chasing pack eyes Yowani's Popovic
Daniel Popovic plays a shot on the 13th hole. Photo: Bradley Kanaris
He has announced himself as a serious player at Coolum this week, but it was at a humble Canberra course where Daniel Popovic's golfing passion was born.
The joint leader of the Australian PGA Championship first picked up a club as a youngster at Yowani Country Club, before moving to Victoria aged 11.
After backing up a career-best 64 on day one with a solid second-round 70 on Friday, the 26-year-old finds himself at the top of the leaderboard at 10-under alongside China's Xin Jun Zhang.
Former Canberra junior Daniel Popovic is the leader on 10-under. Photo: Bradley Kanaris
Just a few years ago, Popovic would watch Canberra professional Matthew Millar practise his chipping at Yowani.
This weekend, Millar (five-under) is part of the chasing pack looking to spoil 26-year-old Popovic's dream week.
''When I officially met him earlier this year [at a low-key Melbourne tournament] he said to me, 'do you remember me?', Millar said on Friday.
Matthew Millar is at five-under. Photo: Mark Kolbe
''I looked at him and thought his face was familiar, but I couldn't quite pinpoint it.
''He said when you used to do some of your chipping down at Yowani, I was there.
''He's a really nice fella Daniel, and obviously a good player as well. He looks like he's got a good future in front of him.''
Popovic faces an acid test this weekend, with his challengers headed by US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy at eight-under.
''He's certainly done well to be up there, the weekend will be his big test when he's got guys like Ogilvy coming at him,'' Millar said.
After a mediocre 73 on day one, Millar took advantage of Friday's pristine conditions to fire a 66 and move to a share of 10th place at five-under.
Fellow Canberran Brendan Jones also skyrocketed into contention after a slow start with a second-round 67, to leap to four-under.
''I didn't play well at all Thursday, I struck it quite poorly,'' Millar said.
''I think I was still dusting off from playing in the wind at the Lakes [final round of last week's Australian Open].
''Lucky enough my coach was there yesterday [Friday] and I was able to work on it on the range.''
Millar insists he is close enough to contend for the Kirkwood Cup on Sunday.
''Five shots behind with two rounds to go … I do believe I can win from there but not by shooting a pair of 70s,'' Millar said.
''I'll have to shoot at least 10-under for the weekend I reckon, which is certainly within the realms if I play well.''
Fellow Canberran Chris Campbell also made the cut, firing a 71 on Friday to move to one-over and a share of 59th spot.
AT A GLANCE
Leaderboard after two rounds:
10-under: Xin Jun Zhang, Daniel Popovic;
8-under: Geoff Ogilvy, Matthew Griffin;
7-under: Steven Bowditch, Brad Kennedy, Mathew Goggin;
6-under: Peter Senior, Rod Pampling.