ROCK SOLID: Leigh McKechnieA COOL, calm and collected Leigh McKechnie showed the way for a three-pronged Hunter assault on the Australian PGA Championship at Coolum yesterday.

Newcastle and Waratah member McKechnie, Muswellbrook’s Kurt Barnes and Charlestown’s Aaron Townsend were six under in a nine-way tie for eighth.

They are five shots off the lead heading into round three today.

Townsend and Barnes endured roller-coaster rounds, but McKechnie had just one bogey in a two-under 70 to go with his first-round 68.

Townsend (67-71) had a double bogey on the last hole yesterday after three bogeys and six birdies. Barnes (69-69) had two bogeys and five birdies yesterday after carding six birdies and three bogeys on the opening day.

A relaxed McKechnie, who finished five over at the Australian Open and missed the cut at the NSW Open last week at Fern Bay, said he had found his putting range at Coolum.

‘‘I’ve been playing OK recently, I just haven’t been putting all that well, so I’ve been doing some work on that for the last few days,’’ McKechnie said.

‘‘I’m just playing solid, so I’m happy with the way things are going. It is a very good field this week, so hopefully I draw one of the top players tomorrow and just enjoy the experience, I guess.

‘‘I’m not thinking too much about down the track.

‘‘I’m just looking forward to tomorrow, just taking it easy, having a bit of a swim in the morning and getting out there and just hitting the same sort of stuff.’’

Townsend bogeyed the 13th after finding the water but recovered with birdies on the 14th and 16th before his six on the par-four last spoiled his charge.

McKechnie said the pristine Coolum greens offered birdie chances but the layout punished wayward shots from tee to green.

‘‘There’s a lot of water on the back nine, there’s almost water on every hole, so obviously hitting the fairways is the most important part and if you do hit a loose one, the water will be there to grab you,’’ he said.

‘‘Bogeys will happen if you are a bit untidy.’’

Belmont’s Graeme Stockley recovered from a first-day 79 to card a three-under 69 and finish his tournament on four over. He missed the cut by two strokes.

Clubmate Brendan Smith was a shot further back after shooting 76 to follow his first-round of 73.