Nervous night for Oliver Wilson at NZ Open
BY iseekgolf.com | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 New Zealand Open | Round Three | 12 Feb 2005
England’s Oliver Wilson, the leader after 54 holes in the Holden New Zealand Open golf championship at Gulf Harbour, expects he will be in for a restless night.
While his countryman Miles Tunnicliff dropped shots at the brutal 17th and 18th holes, Wilson ground out two pars and ended the third round of the $1.5 million co-sanctioned European and Australasian tour event a shot ahead of his more experienced compatriot.
Wilson kept his concentration and handled the strong sou’west wind wonderfully well to shoot a four-under 68 and finish the three rounds at 199, 17-under par. Tunnicliff was a shot adrift and two ahead of left-handed Victorian Richard Green.
Well in contention for tomorrow’s last 18 holes are Australians Marcus Fraser and Simon Nash and the overnight leader, Swede Niclas Fasth, whose 75 today was 12 shots worse than his course record-equalling round the previous day.
“I’m not nervous at the moment but I probably will be later. I’m sure I will not sleep tonight then I’ve got time to waste tomorrow before I hit off. Luckily I’m staying at a little apartment by the sea and I’ll wander around,” Wilson said.
The 24-year-old Wilson, who lives both in Mansfield in England and in Augusta in the United States, finished 15th on the European second tier Challenge tour last year.
He had five top 10 finishes and led a couple of times going into the last round.
“But that was nothing like this,” he said.
He has received emails of encouragement from friends in both England and the United States and one from his mum, Vicky, which told him “to hang in there.”
Wilson holed a superb birdie putt on the first and that was the forerunner for three more consecutive birdies. He dropped a shot at the difficult ninth after “an awful chip, I deserved that though it is a tough hole” and he three-putted the 10th for bogey.
But birdies at 11, 12 and 15 preceded a bogey at 16 and he parred the last two holes which caused so much heartache for his fellow competitors.
“Those last two holes were not much fun but I ground it out. The front nine settled me down. I kept making birdies early and made a few good saves.”
Tunnicliff, 36, knows how to win, having tour victories in England and Scotland and both times after being on the pace going into the last round.
Asked what his plan was for tomorrow he jokingly replied, “to shoot 60 and win”.
“I played solidly early (he was out in four-under 32), but had two birdies and four bogeys on the far more searching back nine.
He said that while the leader would be nervous, so would he.
New Zealand’s best hope of a home victory, Steve Alker, did not close on the leaders, but he kept in contact with a par round of 72, which included a birdie at the first and one at the last. In between were 14 pars and dropped shots at 13 and 17.
The birdie at the par-4 393m 18th was most satisfying as the swirling crosswind made club selection difficult. Alker hit a No. 4 iron from 177m with the intention of finding the middle of the green.
But his approach shot drew left in flight and finished 3.5m behind the hole. To the delight of the good gallery, including family and friends, who had followed him, he slotted the slippery downhill birdie putt. The hole gave up only six birdies to the field of 79.
Alker, 33, said that strange though it may sound he struck the ball better today than in his seven-under 65 in the second round yet he signed for a score seven shots worse.
“Holes 9, 17 and 18 were brutal. I gave it the best I had. I hit a couple of sloppy shots and missed a few putts.”
“I hit it solid but didn’t make enough of my chances on the back nine. I had 31 yesterday and 37 today.”
Alker, even though he will be giving the leader seven shots starting tomorrow’s final 18 holes, believed he still had a chance of winning the first purse of $270,000.
“I don’t mind the wind. It’s been different every day and if continues to blow it gives me a chance to catch the leaders.”
Australians Andrew Tschudin and Peter O’Malley and Englishman Lee Slattery were the big improvers in the morning. All carded six-under par 66s which jumped them into the top 20.
Slattery was fastest out of the blocks. He started sensationally with birdies at the first six holes, but a bogey at the ninth slightly spoilt the front nine which was completed in 31.
On the more testing back nine, he held his form well, firing eight pars and a birdie at the 417m par-4 14th hole, which ranks high among the hardest holes.
Tschudin, from Victoria, was in the third group off and paired with one of the three remaining New Zealanders, Stephen Scahill.
They were well into the round before the wind really intensified and both got to four-under through the 11th, with Tschudin having five birdies and a bogey and Scahill bagging an eagle at the par-5 11th to go with three birdies and one bogey.
Tschudin pressed on with birdies at 13 and 17 to finish with 66, six-under par, whereas Scahill, as he did in the second round, finished disappointingly. He bogeyed the par-5 17th and dropped another shot at the last when his 2m par putt broke past the hole.
Source – NZGA