Steady Smail leads Australian Open
BY Bruce Young | Australasian PGA Tour | 2008 Australian Open | Round Three | 13 Dec 2008
On a day that blew away the chances of many and opened up the door for others, the third round of the Australian Open provided many intriguing twists and turns.
Surprisingly, with one or two exceptions, it was the more favoured candidates who struggled the most in the hot and blustery conditions as the players many expected to be backing off remained in contention. In that regard it was a strange third round at Royal Sydney.
When it was all over New Zealander David Smail held a one shot lead over Andre Stolz, a strong closing nine of in the blustery conditions, including a crucial birdie at the daunting par three 17th, increasing Smail’s then one shot lead to two.
Smail would bogey the last but at 11 under he leads by one over New South Wales golfer, Andre Stolz.
“It was a long day. I was up at 4.35 – all sorts of conditions, absolutely perfect early on but then sand blowing out of bunkers, the heat etc. I had a fair amount of time between my rounds and just hung around the golf course spending time with friends. I then made a good start this afternoon which was important to take advantage of the early holes.”
Smail arrived in Sydney off the back of an impressive runner up finish at the Golf Nippon Series last week in Tokyo and is what could be described as a ‘no frills’ player. That is in no way meant as any disrespect to the 38-year-old who has been a prolific winner of money and titles in Japan. Rather, Smail goes quietly about his business which has proven to be a very profitable one with earnings in Japan alone of nearly $9 million.
Smail’s biggest win there would no doubt have been the Japan Open but he has also won the New Zealand Open and the Canon Challenge in Australasia and finished runner up in the Johnnie Walker Classic and the Australian PGA Championship so he is more than capable of taking this title.
Stolz is a player good enough to have won on the PGA Tour in Las Vegas in 2004 and at one point in early 2003 led the Australasian, Nationwide and Japan Golf Tours after an early season win in Japan and a runner up finish behind Ryan Palmer at the Clearwater Classic in New Zealand and a win in the US.
A few months after he had won in Las Vegas a wrist injury brought about by an unusually long golf swing led to Stolz walking away from the PGA Tour and he returned to the Central Coast of New South Wales to the ‘real world’.
“The first few months of not playing were brutal,” said Stolz of his nearly two years away from tournament golf.
Stolz got involved in a driving range operation but did not enjoy the business side of that role and in 2008 he has dipped his toes in the water again, playing several small events in New South Wales and venturing into Queensland before playing the Von Nida Tour events in early November.
“I feel lucky to be out here and everything is a bonus,” said Stolz after his round. “I am thankful to Trevor Herden from Golf Australia for giving me the chance to play this event and the others who have offered me an invite to play these last few weeks. I am not someone who enjoys asking for invites as I like to think I am a person who prefers to earn his way into things but I have really appreciated their help.”
Ewan Porter and Stephen Dartnall are at 8 under while lurking just behind at 7 under is one of the pre tournament favourites and the man who in many people’s eyes is still the man to beat over the closing 18 holes, Robert Allenby along with Chris Gaunt, Rohan Blizzard and Steve Bowditch.
Given that tomorrow is predicted to again be windy, the final day offers the chance for a player out an hour or so earlier than the leaders to post a score of 66 or 67 and at 11 or 12 under sit and wait while those behind try to match it. If that is the case then those even as far back as 5 or 6 under have a chance.