Lucas Herbert and caddie Nick Pugh – at the 10th hole today. Photo Montana Pritchard PGA of America.

Lucas Herbert will head the Australasians into tomorrow’s final round of the PGA Championship in Tulsa in Oklahoma following a third round of 68 has left him eight shots from the lead held by Chilean Mito Pereira and not without hope of contending for the title.

Outside of the brilliant 65 of Webb Simpson and the 67’s of Sean Power, Cameron Young and Matthew Fitzpatrick, Herbert’s effort was the equal best round of the day and leaves him in a share of 1oth place after beginning the day in 30th place and ten shots from the then 36 hole lead held by Will Zalatoris.

Not only is Herbert in line to better his previous best of 71st in three starts in this event, he has opened the door with a strong finishing round tomorrow to record by some way his best finish in what will be nine major starts and perhaps something considerably better. His previous best was when 31st at the 2020 US Open.

Already 46th in the world ranking, his standing in world golf will improve even further if he is able to produce that low round tomorrow and even challenging for the title is perhaps not out of the question.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” responded Herbert when it was suggested anything under par was a good score today. “I felt like I played pretty solid out there today. Just didn’t hit a lot of horrible golf shots, and then felt like I was just a little sharp around the greens chipping and putting. It was a pretty solid day. I’m not too unhappy with all that.

“I’ll try and get as much rest as I can. I’ve been pretty good all week. Just keeping my body pretty fresh for the challenge of this week. I’ve had three weeks off leading up to the event so I’m relatively fresh compared to the guys who have played more in the last couple of week.

“Try to store up all the energy I can. Stay away from those beers tonight. If they are going to be $18 (reference to the cost of beer at the event), I don’t think I’ll go near them anyway. But do everything I can and give myself as much energy as possible for tomorrow.”

New Zealand’s Ryan Fox is also heading for a possible best finish in a major championship after a third consecutive round of 70 leaves him tied for 17th and one behind Herbert. Fox’s previous best at the major championship level was when 16th at the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

Fox bogeyed the 15th and 18th holes today in what was otherwise a very impressive performance, following on from a series of good finishes in Europe this season, having won in the UAE and finished runner-up in Belgium just last week.

Of the other Australasians who made it to the weekend, Cameron Smith finished with a round of 73 to be at 1 over and ten shots from the lead, Jason Day is 45th, with Cameron Day and Marc Leishman 55th.

The leader, Pereira will chase not only his first major title but his first PGA Tour victory and so faces a big task to hold off several others in a similar position to him including the more experienced Will Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick who trail by three and like the leader are still without a PGA Tour victory, although Fitzpatrick has won seven events on the European Tour.

Zalatoris does have four top tens in major championships including a runner-up finish at the 2020 Masters so, on paper, he might well be the one to break through tomorrow although Pereira is a proven winner on lesser tours with three wins at Korn Ferry Tour level.

Pereira impressed in the manner he fought back from four dropped shots in five holes in the middle of the round and gave the impression that despite the magnitude of the task tomorrow he might well be up to it.

SCORES


The three shot leader, Mito Pereira – photo PGA of America Darren Carroll