Adam Scott in action today – PGA of Australia
Even if they were in the business of doing so, the PGA of Australia could not have scripted the final day of their 2019 championship at RACV Royal Pines on the Gold Coast any better.
The number one world ranked player in the field and the man who committed to this tournament as early as April of this year allowing the PGA Tour of Australasia to promote his involvement, Adam Scott, has snatched the 54 hole lead in the event and takes a one shot buffer over his good friend, Wade Ormsby, into Sunday’s final round.
Scott staged a late rally after treading water for much of his round, a 20-foot birdie putt at the 16th was followed two holes later by a magnificent drive then a brilliant iron from 169 yards to 4 feet. He converted to take the lead after trailing virtually all day.
“It was not easy, the wind was blowing and, you know, out of the northeast is ‑‑ makes the course play fairly tricky,” said the leader after his round. “With the pins as well today, I thought it was a very defensive golf course, and at some point you were going to have to scramble and I scrambled well on 13, 14 and 15 to stay in it and then had a good finish. Some days it’s not that pretty, but it’s effective.”
So will there be much chat on the golf course tomorrow between the two who played junior golf together?
“He’s a class act,” said Ormsby. “So he knows what he’s doing out there, but at the same time, there’s always time to have a chat depending on how we’re both going. But no, we have a good chat out there. At different times, you kind of know when each other wants to talk.”
Minwoo Lee, Michael Hendry, Nick Flanagan and 36-hole leader Carl Yuan are just two from Scott’s lead.
Conditions for the third round suggested that good scoring would be the order of the day, especially for those who were out amongst the early tee times, and that was the way it would prove.
By the time the leaders had hit off at 11.30, San Antonio based, Novocastrian, Nick Flanagan, was putting the finishing touches to his curse record equalling round of 63 which took him from the cutline to second place and just one from the lead when he walked from the course. He would finish the day two behind.
“Yeah, it was kind of out of the blue,” said Flanagan. “The first two days I was really struggling, especially the first day. Found something a little bit on the back nine for my second nine yesterday and actually played really well, just had a couple of three‑putts that kind of kept me on the cut line.
“But yeah, I think just, yeah, till Saturday I missed the last two cuts in a row and just went out and didn’t play with any pressure on myself. Wasn’t trying to make a ton of birdies, was just trying to get it on the greens and kind of give myself putts today, and I tended to hit it closer than I had the last two days and I made all the putts.
Others were also making a move. Spain’s Alejandro Canizares raced to the turn in 30 and when he added two further birdies at the 10th and 13th he had also put himself right in the mix. Canizares dropped shots at the 14th and 15th holes but birdies at the 16th and 17th saw him finish with a round of 64 and at that point was just two from the lead.
As the easterly breeze began to strengthen it was clear that things would not be quite so easy for those out in the afternoon conditions.
The relatively soft, calm conditions had assisted Flanagan and Canizares to their impressive rounds but it was a much sterner test for those closer to the overnight lead.
By the time the final group made the 9th hole however four players were tied in the lead, namely New Zealander, Michael Hendry, South Australian, Wade Ormsby, Queensland based Anthony Quayle and 36 hole leader Carl Yuan.
They were one clear of Flanagan who by that point was enjoying a cool drink in the clubhouse wondering just where his morning heroics might leave him at the end of the day’s play.
Adam Scott had lost touch with the lead when he bogeyed the 5th but he would birdie the 9th and 10th holes to get within one and the chances of a second PGA Championship had improved considerably for the 39 year old.
Ahead on the golf course, South Australian Nick Cullen was himself edging his way to contention. The 2014 Australian Masters Champion recorded six birdies in his first 15 holes and joined the lead at 9 under but no sooner had he done that then he found the water at the par 3 16th and took double bogey to drop two behind. Cullen would finish two behind.
But Scott’s birdie would break the deadlock he was in with Lee, Ormsby and Hendry playing the last. Lee and Hendry would bogey the demanding 18th while Ormsby would be bogey free in his round of 70.
Scott’s second to the last was clearly the shot of the day, especially given its significance and sets up an organiser’s dream scenario for tomorrow’s final round.
Scott is no doubt keen to break the 45-month winning drought and said as much after his round.
“It would be great, it would be great. I mean, I’ve tried really hard to keep my intensity up after last week, and my focus on the course. I’ve had a couple moments where I’ve wavered, but I’ve managed to pull it back together.
“Yeah, it would be nice to cap off this year with a win here at home because I know what the confidence of that can do going into next year and just kind of make things a little more comfortable running into the Masters time.”
While he starts the final round as the hot favourite he knows that, despite his superior ranking, victory is no lay down misère.
“Well, I mean, look, it’s incredibly bunched, and if it’s windy tomorrow, it’s going to be hard for anyone to really separate themselves unless they just play an incredible round of golf, go out there and roll in a lot of putts.
“For me, my strategy’s going to be the same. Unless I hole a lot of long putts, I don’t see myself just running away with this thing. I’m in for a fight tomorrow.”
Seventeen players are within five shots of the lead, many with still an outside chance of snatching the title with a strong finishing round but most will favour Scott to win his first event anywhere since March of 2016.
If he does, he would have deserved it, not only because of the quality of his play but because of the commitment he made all those long months ago.