08 Dec 2012
John Senden deployed his peerless ball-striking and low ball-flight in the fierce winds to tame The Lakes and regain the Emirates Australian Open lead today.
Queenslander Senden, the first-round leader, was overtaken by Marcus Fraser in round two and at one point today had seven players ahead of him on the leaderboard, after a disappointing bogey-bogey start to his third round. But the 41-year-old turned it around with an eagle at the par-five 14th hole, birdied the 13th and 14th and then put the parachute up with four pars to finish and a 70.
At seven-under par he takes a two-shot lead over Justin Rose of England into tomorrow’s final round, the second year in succession that he has led the national championship through 54 holes. Last year at The Lakes he was reeled in by Greg Chalmers, and Senden is not a prolific winner of tournaments (although he won the Australian Open in 2006).
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But it is a challenge he relishes. “I know where I stand,’’ he said. “I have to deal with that and go out tomorrow and play my game.’’
He will be joined in final group by England’s world No. 4 Justin Rose, who put it succinctly. “Whoever literally stands up, the last man standing will win the golf tournament. I think it’s going to be a battle.’’
The Lakes turned brute late yesterday, with golf balls oscillating on the greens, signage blowing down and play almost impossible for the golfers still out on the course around 4.30pm. Several players noted that some of the greens, in particular the 18th “crusted up’’ in the wind, making putting exceptionally difficult.
Senden himself said the course was “on the edge’’ by day’s end, but it was his ability to hold sway with four pars to close, including a superb save on the last when he missed the green to the right, that made him stand out. As a player who likes to keep the ball low, and one who can control his golf ball as well as anyone in the world, Senden was the man for the conditions.
“You have to be able to control the ball any time you play golf, but in these conditions you have to be really on your game,’’ he said.
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Senden said the tournament organisers needed to be mindful of the conditions for Sunday with their preparation of the greens. The putting surfaces were running at 11 on the stimpmeter at the start of today’s round, but were much quicker by the end.
“If they’re predicting windier conditions tomorrow, they’ve got to make sure they take care of that,’’ said Senden.
In truth, even-par was a good score today. Scott Gardiner’s 68, posted early in the day before the winds came up, held as the low number of the day. The average was one-over-par 73.
Senden made a poor start, then pottered along until a superb fairway wood at the par-five 11th set up an eagle to rejoin the fray. “I had a good number. I was planning on just ‘hit through the shot. If it goes a little long, that’s okay’. I took a risk there and pulled it off.’’
At one point of the day seven players – Stuart Appleby, Kieran Pratt, Cameron Percy, Justin Rose, Matt Goggin, Brendan Jones and overnight leader Marcus Fraser – had a share of the lead on a compacted leaderboard. But Fraser, the overnight leader, faded with a 76, and Brendan Jones, who started out in second place, also struggled with a 75.
Rose was superb with his control, not making a single bogey until the 17th hole, and owning the lead for some time. But then the Englishman chipped off the green and dropped a shot, then missed the 18th green to the right and could not make par there either. He ended up signing for a 70.
He will start two shots behind Senden but in the final group tomorrow. New South Welshman Matt Jones (69), Queensland veteran Peter Senior (69) and Victorian Kieran Pratt (70) are all within three of the lead at four-under, and in contention. So, too, is former Open champion Stuart Appleby.
Even 2009 Australian Open champion Adam Scott is not out of the running at two-under-par, just five shots back, especially if he gets the type of generous early-morning conditions that most of the players have experienced this week.
Rose said he was excited to be in contention in his last round of a long year.
“It got progressively tougher as the day went on,’’ he said. “By the end of the round it was tough to even tap in, to be perfectly honest with you. Even from three feet you were getting buffeted around, the wind’s moving you. It’s very difficult to get the ball in the hole.’’