Daniel Popovic sizes up a putt at the 12th hole yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
203: Daniel Popovic (AUS) 64 70 69
205: Anthony Brown (AUS) 73 68 64
206: Peter Senior (AUS) 68 70 68, Matthew Griffin (AUS) 69 67 70
207: Brad Kennedy (AUS) 69 68 70, Brendan Jones (AUS) 73 67 67, Mathew Goggin (AUS) 71 66 70, Rod Pampling (AUS) 71 67 69
208: Stephen Dartnall (AUS) 68 72 68, Robert Allenby (AUS) 73 67 68, Geoff Ogilvy (AUS) 67 69 72, Xin Jun Zhang (CHN) 67 67 74
209: Nathan Green (AUS) 72 71 66, Greg Chalmers (AUS) 72 69 68, Richard Green (AUS) 71 68 70, Matthew Millar (AUS) 73 66 70, Michael Wright (AUS) 70 73 66
ANONYMOUS day one leaders regularly flame out and tumble down the leaderboard at the same pace they climbed it. But Daniel Popovic isn't done yet in the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum.
If the 26-year-old Victorian surprised everyone by leading the tournament after the first round, it was equally impressive to see him hang tough and survive on day two as a big pack formed behind him.
A two-under-par 70 was enough to send him into the weekend equal leader at 10 under and firmly in contention for what would be a stunning and emotional PGA title, one dedicated to his sick father Radi, who is back in Melbourne battling incurable bone cancer.
Unlike day one, where few could make real inroads into his eight-under 64 for most of the day, Popovic didn't have it all his own way. Twenty players are now within five shots of the lead.
Major winner and 2008 PGA champion Geoff Ogilvy (69) was two shots back, while China's Zhang Xin Jun (67) overtook him on top of the leaderboard late in his round courtesy of four straight birdies before bogeying 18 to finish tied at the top.
But Popovic, a 300-1 pre-tournament long shot, has character in spades and is playing on emotion as well as skill.
He spoke to the media after his opening round and said he was hitting the ball so well, there was no chance he'd blow out on day two.
He was good to his word, even if his 70 didn't have the lustre of some of the other low scores on a day where the winds settled down and the birdies flowed in bright conditions.
Popovic wasted little time after his round getting back to the practice green to prime himself for the third round. He didn't go near the gym after revealing his only exercise is a round of golf, bucking the trend of ripped young pros that spend hours working on strength and flexibility.
"Absolutely none," Popovic replied when asked about his fitness regime. "Playing 18 holes of golf."
Zhang has looked superb with a pair of 67s but came undone on 15, dropping a shot, regaining it on 17, before making bogey on 18.
Zhang left school at 15 to become a security guard. His first assignment was to be posted to a golf course, where he took to the game.
He hoped to become a coach but after turning pro in January, could become the unlikely PGA champion.
Ogilvy and Matthew Griffin (67) share outright second on eight under, with Mathew Goggin (66), local fancy Steven Bowditch (67) and Brad Kennedy (68) tied for third.
Ogilvy will play with Popovic on Saturday.
Australian Open champion Peter Senior and Rod Pampling are minus six while Kurt Barnes shot the low round of the day, with his seven-under 65 good enough to put him five shots behind, within striking distance of the leaders.