WITH one headliner only narrowly avoiding the cut, another treading water, and the other breathing down their necks, two late-blooming, multi-talented sportsmen will re-acquaint in the leader group for the third round of the Australian Masters.
On a day when the big-name internationals faded into the background, little-known Queenslander Matthew Guyatt and New Zealander Michael Hendry continued to hog the spotlight after both fired a three-under-par 69 to top the leaderboard at Kingston Heath. Guyatt maintained his lead from day one after moving to 10 under at the halfway mark, two shots ahead of Hendry on eight under.
But for one of the two surprise-packets to pull off the biggest Masters upset since Craig Spence 13 years ago, they will have to hold off top-ranked Australian Adam Scott.
The world No.5 negotiated far tricker wind conditions and accelerated greens than on day one to card a two-under 70, taking him to outright third at seven under. Scott and Guyatt have mutual friends and know each other from playing pennant golf in Queensland, although as much as Scott would enjoy the chance to be paired with his fellow statesman come Sunday, he made it clear he was here to win.
''I wish him all the best for the next two days, but I will be gunning for him,'' Scott said.
The course that had the international drawcards in awe on first sight wasn't so kind to Europeans Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter on day two. McDowell will start round three at four over and 14 shots off the pace following a nightmare round of 77 on Friday that was only just good enough to earn the 2010 US Open winner a weekend pass to redemption.
''It was one of those humbling days golf throws at you. I can't remember putting worse than I putted today,'' the Northern Irishman said of a round that included six bogeys and a double bogey.
The straight-talking Poulter, meanwhile, was less than impressed with his even-par 72, despite it leaving him tied for fourth at five under.
''I'm pissed off with my round of golf, simple,'' the Ryder Cup star said.
Robert Allenby revealed this week how close he came to quitting after a difficult year, and it seems 2012 can't end quick enough for the two-time Masters champion after slumping to four over with a round of 76.
Records from betting agency Betstar suggest one of Guyatt or Hendry would be the biggest underdog to win the Masters since Spence upstaged Greg Norman in 1999 as a $100 chance.
Guyatt started the tournament as a $501 outsider, but will begin round three as one of the top chances at $6.50, while Hendry has shortened from $51 in to $4.25.
The parallels between the journeys of two men who know each other well from playing on the OneAsia Tour are striking.
Both in their 30s, each player rekindled their love for golf after playing another sport at a high level.
Guyatt played in the QAFL, the highest level of football in Queensland as a midfielder, while Hendry was a member of New Zealand's under-19 cricket team and opened the bowling for Auckland.
Hendry figures he might have been a ''fringe Black Cap at best'' having played alongside the likes of Jacob Oram, Lou Vincent and many others before a serious shoulder injury ended his career.
The way the two have heaped praise on their caddies for positioning them around the challenging layout at Kingston Heath, and have used top-class putting to compensate for anything lacking off the tee, has only added to the similarities.
In the clubhouse early, Guyatt admitted he was hoping he and Hendry would survive the afternoon groups and set up a round together on Saturday.
''I actually said to my caddy that it was looking like Mike Hendry might possibly be the guy that we get paired with and I actually said that wouldn't be bad,'' the 37-year-old said. ''I've travelled a little bit on OneAsia this year with Mike and I get along well with him.
''So I thought that might be a good initiation into a final group, rather than a Ian Poulter or Adam Scott where the crowds are going to be heavily increased.''