Allenby still leading Open despite injury

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2005 Australian Open | Round Three | 26 Nov 2005
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Day Three Photo Gallery – Australian Open 2005

Robert Allenby heads into tomorrow’s final round of the MFS Australian Open as a five shot leader but there is no guarantee yet that he will play tomorrow. An injury to his already fragile hand leaves Allenby unable to commit to defending his hard fought lead on Sunday, more later.

An opening birdie by the second round leader at the first hole in today’s third round, quickly established a five shot lead as both he and playing partner Adam Scott headed to the second tee, but this was the sort of day where no lead would be comfortable.

A bogey at the par four third, after finding the bunker from the tee and missing his par save from three metres, was no better example of how this course might fight back and Allenby’s lead was reduced to three as Nathan Green made eagle at the fourth to close quickly. Green has just returned from a successful year on the Nationwide Tour and while he did not win there this year he did well enough to gain his card for the PGA Tour in 2006. He has played well in events such as the MasterCard Masters and the ANZ Championship back in 2001 when runner up but he has not won on the Australasian Tour as yet. Green bogeyed the dangerous par three fifth to fall back into a share of second with Paul Sheehan, Aaron Baddeley and Paul Sheehan.

The now reachable par five fourth awaited both Allenby and Scott and Allenby was the one to take advantage when he birdied to move five ahead once more. A two putt par by the leader at the fifth was followed by consecutive bogeys at the 6th and 7th but while he was struggling, so to were those around him more especially his playing partner Scott. Scott recorded three consecutive bogeys after failing to find the greens at the fifth, sixth and seventh holes and after being Allenby’s closest challenger an hour earlier, he was now six shots adrift and in a share of seventh place.

Sheehan and Green were hanging tough and when both turned in 35 to be at five under, they shared second and had closed within three. Sheehan had eagled the fourth with a three wood from 264 metres which came to rest just off the left side of the green some twenty five feet from the hole and which was converted.

Nick O’Hern had appeared from early in this tournament as if his grinding style of play might just be the type of game suited to this golf course and theses conditions and as the day rolled on it became even more evident that such would be the case. He finished his front nine with consecutive birdies to move to four under and despite a bogey at the tenth he was at three under and certainly still in touch with those ahead.

As Allenby headed to the tenth tee he had a four shot advantage over four players, Sheehan, Green, Senden and Baddeley and it would be a case of who would be the last man standing on day three. Ahead lay a tough finishing stretch where the occasional birdie opportunity would present itself but there was an even greater chance of danger over the closing nine.

Despite the 13th being a much more difficult hole today, Sheehan birdied the par five to move within three.

For Sheehan, who has become one of the leading foreign players in Japan, this was a great opportunity to gain recognition in his own country. Like so many Australians who play the Japan Golf Tour with success here was a chance to get national exposure and perhaps a national title here in his own country. No sooner had he moved within three than Allenby bogeyed the eleventh to see his lead cut to just two but at the fourteenth Sheehan would bogey and Allenby’s lead was again three. Allenby hit his second almost stiff at the 12th to move four ahead again.

At the 13th the leader his approach to eight feet and when that went in he had moved back to where he had started at the beginning of the day at nine under. His lead was now five again and to all intents and purposes it was beginning to appear as if it would be his tournament to either win or lose.

Allenby made a good par save at the 14th from the greenside bunker to maintain his lead and things were stabilising behind with the chasers moving neither forward nor back.

One who had made a move from back in the field however was the Victorian Martin Doyle who two years ago finished in a share of fourth in this event. Doyle, who has won two Von Nida Tour events in recent years but who has not been able to get himself established on an international tour, was round in 72 which was good enough in today’s conditions to see him move from 13th to 5th when he walked from the 18th green.

Sheehan said later that as he walked up the last fairway he thought to himself, “If I could make birdie here I would be a chance to play in the last group tomorrow and that after all is what it is all about. Playing your National Open in the last group is the sort of thing we play for.”

The two-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour is currently 18th on the 2005 Japan Golf Tour’s money list which offers him the chance to play next week’s Japan Series event which is effectively the Tour Championship in Japan. He will leave on Monday night for Japan to play that event near Tokyo but tomorrow he will play in what provides his best opportunity for major success in this country.

“I would be quite happy if it keeps blowing. I have played well so far in the wind and would be quite happy to see it continue.”

Out on the course the first suggestion that the hand issue that had plagued Allenby for much of the year was resurfacing occurred on the tee at the 17th. He called for PGA Tour trainer Paul Trainor, who had been working on him early in the week, for assistance. He must have done some good as he hit his tee shot within three metres. The work on his hand continued as he walked to the green. He made his par at the seventeenth and then hit a magnificent third from just short of the green at the last to set up a closing birdie and back at nine under he now led by five.

“My arm and hand started to cause a little concern a few holes from home and I started to stretch them. I needed to go to the toilet at the 16th and on my way out I caught my hand on the handle and twisted it somehow. I knew then that I had a problem and with my second to the 16th I had to go at it with a four iron as I knew I couldn’t afford to go at it hard enough to get a five iron there. At the seventeenth it was the same and I hit a three quarter five wood which ended up very good. At the last I hit a drive which I couldn’t go full bore at then a good three wood which finished just off the green and then hit a good chip. In all honesty I surprised myself as to just how good I hit those shots over the closing holes.”

Allenby indicated that there was a still a possibility of him not playing tomorrow.

“I will go back and have work done on it then ice it until I go to sleep. I have always said that I would play this event with a broken leg but there is no way I could play tomorrow if it stays as it is.”

Nathan Green who, at one stage earlier in his round had closed within three of the lead fell apart over the closing few holes dropping four shots in the last three and he would finish at even par.

Nick O’Hern’s 71 and Aaron Baddeley and Rod Pampling’s 73 had all three at three under at the completion of fifty four holes and they are certainly not out of it as could be said for Doyle at two under and Appleby and John Senden at one under but they will need something special tomorrow and some help from an ailing leader.

Photo – Anthony Powter

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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