Jed Morgan amongst his many fans today at Royal Queensland – photo PGA of Australia
Starting this week’s Fortinet Australian PGA Championship at Royal Queensland, 22-year-old Jed Morgan was ranked 1522nd in the world. If tomorrow, as is now expected, he goes on to win the significant title he will jump some 1300 positions to just outside the top 200 and along with the A$180,000 first place cheque, the week will have played its role setting in establishing yet another impressive Australian golfing career.
Admittedly, such a victory is still 24 hours away, but the manner in which the young man, who has been a professional golfer for just two months, handled a six-shot lead heading into today’s third round suggests the 9-shot lead, he has created for himself through now 54 holes of one of Australian golf’s most iconic events, should be more than enough of a cushion to get the job done.
Any chink in his relatively young professional armour might well have been exposed when taking such a significant lead into today’s third round, but two birdies in his first three holes and an outward nine of 32 all but shut the door to his chasers. When he went even deeper with three further birdies before a bogey at the last, he would sign for a round of 65 and the huge lead.
“That was obviously the biggest worry,” said Morgan when referring to being able to back up yesterday’s 63 with another good round. “After having a good round yesterday, to go out and almost play better again was pretty cool. But yeah, there’s still one more round to go, so I’ll try my best just to do the same as I did today, tomorrow.”
Morgan was asked about his substantial lead and how that might impact tomorrow.
“Yeah, it’s nice but anything happens in golf, so it doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t really move me one way or the other, it just makes me kind of win by more if I can and yeah, it helps obviously, but just going to try and do the same thing as I’ve done, because it’s obviously working.”
His 54-hole total of 20 under par has him nine shots clear of the now Newcastle based golfer, Andrew Dodt, although, interestingly, Dodt spent a lot of his early life in Gatton west of Brisbane and not too far from where Morgan was raised in Hatton Vale.
Dodt began today’s third round as though he might just prove a thorn in Morgan’s side with birdies at his opening two holes but a bogey at the 3rd and Morgan’s impressive response soon put paid to that.
Dodt’s round of 68 has kept him in touch but he will need something very special if he is to chase his younger opponent down and will also need a little help from that same person.
“Is it doable”, responded Dodt when asked if the nine shot lead was too much. “Nine shots, that’s a lot, on his home course in front of his home fans. It’s going to take a low round and potentially a not so good round on his behalf, but he’s full of confidence, he’s playing well, he’s holing putts. It’s going to be tough.
“I think you’ve got to play it (the course) on its merit. You’ve got to look at the pins, because you can quite easily make bogeys if you miss it in the wrong spot. So it’s about knowing when to go at it and when to just play a little bit safe. But 9 back, you’ve got to be a little bit aggressive.”
A nine shot 54 hole lead has been overcome in the past, most notably when Paul Lawrie overcame a ten shot deficit to win the 1999 Open Championsip at Carnoustie and I can recall being involved as a caddy myself when my then boss, New Zealander John Lister, over came a nine shot final round margin to win a significant professional event event in Christchurch in New Zealand in the mid 1970’s.
But this is not Carnoustie and Morgan does not have the likes of Lawrie, Justin Leonard and Tiger Woods chasing him down and he has the advantage of a home course and a home crowd to aid his cause.
David Micheluzzi birdied five consecutive birdies in his closing nine of 31 to move into 3rd place alone, the young Victorian first spring to the golfing public’s attention when 5th behind Abraham Ancer at the 2018 Australian Open.
The women’s event is led by Victorian Su Oh who added a third round of 68 to move pass the halfway leader Grace Kim secure a two shot lead over Kim and Sarah Jane Smith into tomorrow’s final round of the women’s version of the Australian PGA Championship.
“I wasn’t hitting the ball very well yesterday, so I just tried to minimise the damage a little bit, started to feel a little bit better today,” said Oh.
“So yeah, it’s just kind of tricky, you know, like I don’t think it will really change the way I play the golf course,” she added when asked about her awareness of what other’s were doing.”
The purse for the women is the same ($180,000) as that for the men despite their field containing just 24 players.
A win for Oh, Kim or Smith would therefore provide a significant boost to their careers, especially given Kim has only just turned professional and Smith only recently regained her LPGA Tour playing rights.