Australian Golf Club bares its teeth
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2007 Australian Open | Round Three | 15 Dec 2007
After two days of benign conditions, conducive to good scoring, the Australian Golf Club bared its teeth today as the northerly breeze kicked in around midday and strengthened throughout the afternoon. The northerly replaced the gentle southerly breeze which had prevailed over the first two days and the nature of the golf course changed significantly.
James Nitties and Robert Allenby lead this high class field into the final round and Allenby was first to face the media.
“My goal today was to get it into double digits and I am pleased I managed to do just that,” he said. “I wanted so much to hole that putt at the last so I could be assured of playing in the last group tomorrow. It is always better to be playing in the final group as you always have the last shot at it.”
“I swung the club today as well as I have swung it all year. I thought about things this morning and made the decision to go out and become less technical and just worked on my pre shot routine. I added the waggles again and I hit some unbelievable shots and could have shot a very low score there. I have a lot of respect for the event, the course and this field so the job is not yet done but I am happy with my position.”
Nitties is clearly pleased with his position also, especially after what he described as a scrappy start.
“I made a couple of putts in the middle of the first nine for par which settled me down and started to hit some good shots from there. The greens got firm towards the later stages of the round and you could not go at the flag as much. It was also very difficult to pick the wind.”
Earlier in the day, some of those close to the lead quickly lost their way with the likes of overnight co-leader Kim Felton, Andrew Bonhomme and Wayne Perkse falling victim to the changing conditions and perhaps the pressure of the moment given their comparative lack of experience.
Nick O’Hern quickly established a lead when he eagled the first and birdied the second but he was brought back to the field by a double bogey at the par five 5th and, although he still led, the margin was just one and the posse was on his heels.
As the golf course got increasingly difficult, Australia’s leading and most experienced players began to emerge as the likely contenders. Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby and joint course record holder, Craig Parry, soon shared the lead with O’Hern at 9 under but there was an American in the mix before long also in Brandt Snedeker who made the turn in one under 35 before two quick birdies on the back nine had him one behind the leading group.
Aaron Baddeley opened with an eagle and when he added a birdie at the 5th he had moved to 6 under and was emerging as a threat to win for the second time this summer. A double bogey at the 9th after losing his ball in the bank on the right hand side of the fairway slowed the momentum but he bounced back with two quick birdies to be 6 under again and within three. Baddeley would go on to finish with 69 and at 6 under is not yet out of it.
The race for the third round lead began to heat up when Robert Allenby birdied the 8th. Three holes later, the hole that may well have been Allenby’s nemesis this weekend, turned out to be the hole that took him to the lead in the event for the first time.
At that par three party hole, the 11th, Allenby holed a putt from 20 feet to put to bed any of the demons that may have emerged as a result of his initial aversion to the concept of an amphitheatre come stadium party hole. The crowd went wild and it is hard to imagine that he has experienced a more enjoyable moment in golf. With his system perhaps full of adrenalin he threw the ball to the crowd only to see it sail over the bar behind the green. It was golfing theatre at its best.
Just a few minutes later Novocastrian, James Nitties, replicated Allenby’s birdie and his celebratory throwing of the ball, again over the grandstand and he had moved to 9 under and within one of Allenby’s lead. Three holes later Nitties took the lead at the 14th when he reached the green at the par five 14th and two putted to move to 10 under and when Allenby bogeyed the 15th in the group ahead, Nitties had the lead alone by one over Allenby and O’Hern.
Stuart Appleby birdied the last to finish at 9 under and finished the day in outright second place and within one shot of the lead. “It was a totally different golf course today,” said the Australian Open Champion of 2001. “The outcome of the event may be very much dependant on the weather and the pin positions tomorrow. If you are asking me if I think I can win my second Open tomorrow the answer is yes.”
Craig Parry was on a roller coaster ride over the back nine of his round. He made the turn in 34 to be at 8 under for the tournament and within one but then produced a back nine of 36 which included one eagle, two birdies, two bogies and a double bogey.
The gutsy 41-year-old competitor, who shares the course record after his second round of 64 yesterday, has a special place in his heart for the Australian Golf Club having won one of his first professional tournaments here when winning the New South Wales Open in 1987. He was putting beautifully, again with the help of his nephew Matt Thomas, and at one stage seemed incapable of missing. He is at 8 under and within two.
Also at 8 under is Nick O’Hern, who was disappointed at the manner in which he finished dropping a shot at the 17th.
“I actually played well all day apart from the double bogey but the putts which were falling yesterday were not so today. Level par was not a bad score given the conditions but finishing the way I did was not what I was after.” O’Hern double bogeyed the 5th after making a mess of the par five but, only two shots behind he is still a big threat, especially if the conditions get tough tomorrow.
Day three showed just how possible it is for those several shots off the pace to move into contention by getting out before the afternoon breezes. The weather at this stage for the final round is forecast for showers but with seven players in with a realistic chance of winning the event tomorrow promises a lot of intrigue and anticipation.