Gates, who earned a 2011 PGA Tour card with a 16th-place finish this season on the Nationwide Tour money list, had an 11-under 133 total for a one-stroke lead over China’s Liang Wenchong (68) and Australian John Senden (65). Defending champion Robert Allenby (68) was five strokes behind Gates.
“This is one of the national championships down here, and it’s a way for the Australian guys to showcase that they’re some of the best players in the world,” Gates said. “So to come down here, I can see how my game stacks up with them. I know they’re all playing well because it’s on their home turf, so it makes me want to try and play harder because I know I have to try and keep up with them.”
Geoff Ogilvy, coming off a victory last week in the Australian Open, shot 69 and was six strokes behind Gates. Adam Scott followed his opening 73 with a 75 to miss the cut.
Daly, who opened with a 71 on Thursday, refused to speak to media after his round and was driven from the course by the tournament promoter.
“He was having some problems, but there was nothing ugly out there,” said Andrew Langford-Jones, the director of tournaments for the PGA of Australia.
In the 2002 event, after taking a triple-bogey 7 on his last hole at the Hyatt Coolum course, Daly threw his putter and ball into a greenside pond and later failed to sign for a 78 on his scorecard, disqualifying himself from the tournament. He was fined $5,600 by the Australasian PGA Tour and was ordered to write a letter of apology to a tour official he verbally abused.
Tournament promoter Tony Roosenberg denied there was any verbal jousting between Daly and playing partner Allenby.
“That’s definitely not the case,” Roosenberg said. “He (Daly) was very disappointed but there was absolutely no words between the two players. John has been playing really well, but he can’t get the putter going. He’s been very frustrated and today was a bit much.”
Daly’s putter appeared to be part of the issue—he forgot his new putter in his hotel room at the resort. His girlfriend failed to arrive with it from their room before Daly teed off.
Gates, the former Texas A&M player who won the New Zealand Open in January in his Nationwide Tour debut, was one of the first players on the course Friday.
“It was kind of a rough start. I’d never teed off at 6:30 a.m., so maybe I wasn’t awake yet,” Gates said. “I birdied 10, bogeyed 11 after a bad 8-iron into the green, birdied 12, but had bad tee shots on 13 and 14, misjudging some wind, and bogeyed both of those. But after that, I played well.
“The winds were quite different, the greens are getting firm. So I have gained a bit of confidence going into the weekend, and I’ve had the luxury of exploring the course and knowing where not to be.”