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Last updated Friday 1st March 2024.

Patience, patience, patience.

That’s what Daniel Hillier pointed to after nailing a barrage of birdies down the stretch to nab a share of second halfway through the New Zealand Open.

Hillier birdied the final four holes to shoot a 6-under 65 at Arrowtown’s Millbrook Resort, improving him to 10-under heading into the weekend.

Fellow Kiwi Josh Geary also shot 65 on Friday to be tied for second, leaving the pair just two strokes behind Australian leader Scott Hend in the $2 million tournament.

On a day the -4 cut line claimed Steven Alker, Kazuma Kobori and Michael Hendry as casualties, the excellent late afternoon rounds Hillier and Geary produced was welcome news for Kiwi fans fed up with Australia’s stranglehold on the tournament.

“I was pretty level headed throughout the day and didn’t let anything faze me. I’m slowly getting better at that with time. Hopefully I can keep that up tomorrow,“ Hillier said after his round.

His patience sure was tested during the front nine, when the slow pace of play in the pro-am tournament made for a lengthy round.

It also got breezy atop the exposed holes on the Coronet course as the day wore on.

“Definitely a bit of a grind. But [I got] a few chances coming in and I managed to make the most of it.”

Hillier wasn’t the only Kiwi to finish with a bunch of birdies.

Hours before Hillier got hot, Auckland’s Nick Voke banged in four birdies on the bounce down the stretch en route to a 6-under 65 of his own.

It made him the leading Kiwi at 9-under par, at least for a while, before the aforementioned pair relegated him to a share of seventh ahead of the weekend.

To think Voke walked off Millbrook’s Remarkables course feeling he hadn’t played well.

“Thrilled. I didn’t feel like I played all that well. I just scored really well,” Voke said.

“There were a couple of really clinical up and downs there to keep the momentum going, and I finished really strongly. That was it.”

Outside of a double-bogey during his opening round on the Coronet course, Voke has kept a clean card.

The only blemish came after he opted to putt from off the green, which is perhaps a surprise given his ball-striking hadn’t been as sharp the past two days as it was heading into the tournament.

“Really good, actually. Some of the best golf I’ve played [before this],” Voke said.

“Then I had two weeks off surfing up in Muriwai the last couple of weeks. Let’s just say I may have been on the board too much.”

You wouldn’t know it if you watched him rattle in four birdies between holes 14 and 17 to wrap up his second round.

Well, not after he flared his tee shot right on the par-4 17th, before he hit what he called a “miraculous” shot to within nine feet of the hole, before nailing the birdie putt.

“Blink and it happened,” Voke said, having also hit a wedge to within four feet on 15. He also holed a 12-foot putt on 17.

“I could go out tomorrow, stripe it and not play that well. That’s the beauty of the game. We’ll come out firing and give it a good chance.“

Should he keep firing into the weekend, Voke could well eat into Hend’s lead at a time Australian golfers have won nine of the past 10 tournaments.

“Not really. Maybe we should. Maybe that’s what we’re missing out on,” Voke said when asked if the Aussies’ dominance was a hot topic among the Kiwis.

Overnight leader Hend backed up his sizzling opening-round 64 with a 66 at Coronet on Friday.

Hend mixed six birdies with a bogey in benign conditions, which are forecast to continue into the weekend.

“No wind, to be honest with you,” Hend said when explaining his success going into the weekend.

“It’s not as difficult out there as it has been years gone past because we haven’t had the wind yet.”

Daniel Hillier is right in contention at the New Zealand Open at Millbrook Resort.