Lonard, O'Hern take control at Coolum

BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2006 Australian PGA Championship | Round Three | 09 Dec 2006
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Day three of the Cadbury Schweppes PGA Championship at Hyatt Regency Coolum quickly developed into the pattern that has become typical of the event over the now five years that it has been played at the Sunshine Coast resort.

The day developed into a birdie fest, firstly with the early starters but those in more serious contention were not about to miss their opportunity on a golf course that was there for the taking.

The first to make a significant statement was the Queenslander Ryan Haller who started his round at 9.05 some three and a half hours before the final pairing of Peter Lonard and Nathan Green. Haller made slow but steady progress to the turn but over the closing nine holes, and especially his last three, he was closing fast on those ahead in fact when he finished his round he was within two of the lead.

It was clear however that the course was yielding to the onslaught and those out later would have their chance to emulate the deeds of the 32 year Haller. One of those was the US Open Champion Geoff Ogilvy who despite dropping shots at the 12th and 13th holes was round in 67 for 10 under but by the time he finished it appeared that despite the move he had made, the leaders were about to get away on him again.

“If the leaders were to finish at 15 under I might have a chance tomorrow but if they finish at 20 under, which they might, then I have no chance, said Ogilvy later. “Also it is not so much the distance between us but the number of players. I never really feel the course is as easy as the scores suggest but this particular wind does make it easier. There were not many opportunities to hit driver out there and so you are often coming from the fairway and so I think that is one reason for the low scoring.”

James Nitties started the tournament well but struggled on day two as every man and his dog went past him. Today he had 68 and at 10 under par is in with a chance of a good finish.

As the leaders headed out they would make their intentions known early. Lonard and Nathan Green were playing in the same group and they both opened up with birdies, Green from 15 feet and Lonard from shorter range. Although Green birdied the 5th hole to move to 12 under he began to slip back from there while his playing partner began an impressive run of form. Lonard birdied six out of seven holes from the 7th and when he stood on the 14th tee he was at 18 under and had the lead by one over Nick O’Hern.

O’Hern had started in the fourth to last group at 9 under and two back of Lonard but with birdies at the opening two holes he had moved into a share of the lead before Lonard had even teed off. Three further birdies before the turn would see O’Hern at 14 under by the time he stood on the 10th tee he led the tournament over Lonard and Ormsby.

The South Australian Ormsby birdied the 7th then eagled the par five 8th to move to 14 under and as he did he joined O’Hern in the lead. In the group behind however Lonard was commencing his birdie barrage.

Ormsby continued his good run and birdies at the 12th and 13th had him at 17 under and within one of Lonard. Disaster was about to strike however and when he took a triple bogey at the par five 15th Ormsby’s chance at the title, even with so much play remaining today and tomorrow, may well have disappeared.

As Peter Lonard surveyed his approach to the same par five 15th five minutes later, Nick O’Hern was about to play his second from the fairway bunker at the 18th hole. His tee shot had just struggled into the trap and the left hander was left with an awkward shot to a green guarded by water to the left. “It was a little bit of a downhill lie and it was compacted and so I hit a chipped nine iron rather than try to hit the wedge hard.” He hit the most superb approach to 15 feet and when he holed that he clinched his fist and had joined Lonard in the lead at 18 under.

O’Hern’s round of 63 equaled the course record held by Mattie Goggin, Wade Ormsby and Stuart Appleby and his very good record at Hyatt Regency Coolum continued. Importantly the round has created an opportunity for O’Hern to gazump Kevin Stadler as the leader of the order of Merit. Not that the title will offer much more than bragging rights as, given his status in the game now, O’Hern is eligible for pretty well everything he needs to be in terms of world golf events but a win tomorrow and the Order of Merit title would be well received by both O’Hern and the golfing public alike.

Lonard failed to birdie the 15th and then missed a very makeable chance at the 16th and again at the 17th after his approach at both holes finished within 15 feet from the hole from the cup but remained in a share of the lead with O’Hern as he stood on the 18th tee. “I was getting a little too confident with the putter and may have just powered it through the break on the 17th.”

Lonard and O’Hern had opened up a three shot gap over Peter O’Malley who had been quietly putting together a round of 66. O’Malley had made a strong run at the lead with an opening nine of 31 but then began to tread water until a birdie at the last saw him sneak closer to the leading pair. Ormsby was one shot further back at 14 under despite his 15th hole disaster.

At the last Lonard found the bunker with his tee shot but hit a beautiful short iron to 14 feet although the putt never really looked like going in.

At 18 under and with a three shot lead, one of the joint leaders O’Hern or Lonard appear the likely chances to take the title. As has been seen all week at Hyatt Regency Coolum, however, there are some very low scores available out there and if somebody as far back as 12 under can post a 64 or thereabouts then they may yet have a chance of springing a surprise. It would seem that at least 20 under, perhaps more, will be required.

The two course specialists have made their way to the top of the leaderboard. Nick O’Hern has not only won a title at Hyatt Regency Coolum but has been a regular good finisher in this event. Lonard has won twice over this layout and, given his growing level of confidence, he might just make it three.

Twelve months ago there was an air of sympathy for O’Hern when he had a great chance to win the MasterCard Masters. He was distraught after letting that very good chance slip but he now has another great opportunity to atone and put some demons well and truly to bed. It is a fair bet that there will be tears if O’Hern is able to take the title and there might also be if he lets a chance slip.

O’Hern has been one of Australia’s best players over the last few years, elevating his status in his own quiet way. He deserves a title such as this but they don’t give them away however and he will need to earn it. This could well develop into one of the great shootouts in Australian golf in recent years.

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.

    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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