Sabbatini heads packed leaderboard at Coolum
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2007 Australian PGA Championship | Round Three | 08 Dec 2007
The early scoring blitz on day three of the Australian PGA Championship was maintained by the afternoon groups and by the end of the day the leading eleven players in the tournament were a collective 53 under par.
At the completion of day three it was the tournament invitee and the world’s number 11 ranked player, Rory Sabbatini, who birdied the last hole of the day to take the lead and edge ahead of a group of five players one shot back.
Nick O’Hern and Stephen Leaney were the first players to give a true indication of what was possible on day three when they signed for rounds of 65 shortly after Adam Scott and Rory Sabbatini began their rounds. They had moved to 9 under for the tournament but it was clear that while they were within one of the lead it would not remain that way for long.
The steamy overhead conditions accentuated by the damp underfoot fairways and greens made for a day where anyone hovering around par was going backwards in a big way.
Adam Scott was one of those who would struggle on day three, his score of even par 72 standing out like a beacon on a leaderboard awash with red ink.
By mid-round they were coming from all angles. At one point towards the end of the round there were six players sharing the lead at 13 under.
Jason Gore, who was amongst those five, essentially came down here for a vacation. During the Wyndham Championship in September, Gore was playing with Australian, Nathan Green, who happened to have manager, Mick Graham, on the bag. Gore suggested he was interested in coming to Australia and Graham said he would sort it out and so the invitation came.
“This is my fourth time to Australia and I have always loved it here,” said Gore after his round. “I first came back in 1994 I think it was when I played the Lake Macquarie Amateur event and have been back a couple of times with the Nationwide Tour events. I brought my wife Megan with me this time and we are having a great time. I will also play next week at the Australian Open.”
The next in at 13 under was South Australian, Adam Bland, who has had success in Canada this year, winning twice and gaining a start in the USPGA Tour’s Canadian Open in the process.
The South Australian led Stage Two of the recent European Tour qualifying only to miss his card at the final stage but he has reached a point where he was contemplating a trip to Asia Tour School next week. A win tomorrow however might just change those plans.
“If I win tomorrow then I will forget Asia and play the Australian Open next week and try to gain access to other events worldwide through good position on Australasian Tour Order Of Merit,” said Bland.
“The Asian Tour is not exactly me, although the hot and humid weather this week and Bermuda greens perhaps suggest I can do better there than I think. I am playing well at the moment, probably the best I have ever played so I will have a couple of quiet ones tonight to relax the nerves a little and look forward to tomorrow.”
First round leader, Michael Sim, was back in business today after his second round of 73 threatened to derail him. His bogey free 65 moving him into a share of the lead. 23-year-old Sim birdied seven of eleven holes through the middle of his round to challenge and then join the lead. The highly talented West Australian will not be out of his depth tomorrow despite his lack of experience in this situation.
New Zealander David Smail was the next to join the packed leaderboard when he birdied the 18th after just missing the water on the left. Having finished 6th in this event last year he clearly enjoys Coolum and as a multi-winner in Japan he is more than capable of handling the situation in which he finds himself.
Peter Lonard once again eliminated the bogeys but was only able to secure four birdies although his round of 68 got him into the lead before the last hole birdie of Sabbatini relegated he and four others to second place. The Coolum specialist is very much in the mix however and could well win his third title at this venue tomorrow.
Finally it was Sabbatini’s turn to break the deadlock. From 124 yards at the last and with a sand wedge in his hand he hit his approach to the last to three feet and made it to move to 14 under and into the lead on his own. He led by one over Lonard, Smail, Gore, Bland and Sim, thus completing an international leaderboard and one that has an intriguing blend of established and emerging players.
“I was more in control of the golf ball today,” said the South African after his round. “I am still a little mind-boggled by the greens and reading them but I am working hard on getting the pace right and not leaving too long a second putt.”
Overnight leader, Adam Scott, was brought undone by a triple bogey at the 12th but even allowing for that it was an ordinary round although a last hole birdie has given him an outside chance if he is able to produce a very low round tomorrow. He will need to as there are a lot of class players ahead of him.
As has so often been the case in this event, a packed leaderboard will provide much entertainment on the final day of the 2007 Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship. 18 players are within six shots of the lead and it is not totally beyond the realms of possibility that anyone one of them could win. The winner, however, is likely to come from either Sabbatini or those within one shot of his lead.
The Australian PGA Championship has often delivered an intriguing final day and tomorrow it promises to do just that again.