Sydney - Jason
Day ended a frustrating run of par golf by making three late birdies to
snatch the outright lead after the third round of the 102nd Australian
Open on Saturday.
The former world number one's patience finally
paid off when he made back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th holes
after parring his first 13 holes.
He did drop a shot when he
bogeyed his penultimate hole for the second day in a row but made amends
with a birdie at the last for a two-under-par 69 and a three-round
total of 10-under-203.
"It was tough to try and not to force things. I know the crowds are out there and they want to see a lot of birdies," Day said.
a professional golfer that's been around for a while now, it's easier
for me to stand back and go, okay, I need to be patient and not try to
be too aggressive."
Day, chasing his first title in 18 months
since winning the 2016 Players Championship in Florida, will head into
Sunday's final round with a one-stroke lead over his fellow Australian
Lucas Herbert, who carded an even-par 71 to finish at nine-under after
Sweden's Jonas Blixt charged up the leaderboard
into a share of third place at seven-under after a flawless 66, and was
joined by the 2015 Australian Open champion Matt Jones, who signed for a
"Jason's a world class player, a former number one," Jones
said. "(So) he'd be the favourite to win but we've seen many upsets
before and as long as I manage my game and give myself birdie
opportunities, anything can happen."
Australia's Cameron Smith,
who teamed up with Blixt to win this year's Zurich Classic of New
Orleans, was in fifth place at six-under after firing a third
consecutive round of 69 while the defending champion Jordan Spieth shot a
70 to finish eight shots off the pace.
"If there's any place to come from way behind, it's here," Spieth said.
I can sneak a few breaks in... get a couple of long putts to go or chip
in or something like that. I'm going to have to have some magic."
failure to pick up any early birdies saw him slip two shots behind
Herbert but he drew level with his playing partner when Herbert took a
double-bogey on the par-three 11th when he lost his ball in the bushes
after an errant tee shot.
Herbert said he was so nervous about the
prospect of playing with Day in the final group that he couldn't sleep
on Friday night but was pleased with how he handled the pressure.
"It's like trying to drink three cans of Red Bull and then go to bed; that's what it felt like," he said.
"But after I made a couple of good pars there to start, I think that sort of kicked the nerves and I was good to go."
made a tap-in birdie at the par-5 14th after almost chipping in for
eagle, then snatched the lead with a birdie at the 15th.
narrowly missed a long putt on the 17th to salvage par to rejoin Herbert
at nine-under but immediately regained his slim advantage with a superb
approach on the 18th to set up birdie.
"This is my last
tournament of the year. I just turned 30 just a little bit ago, and I
said my 30s were going to be better than my 20s, so it would nice to be
able to start my 30s off with a good win," Day said.
"I know it's
going to be a very difficult day tomorrow with regard to what we're
going to have out there: the pressure, the wind, the fans, the media."
"It's been a while since I've won, so obviously everyone's going to be nervous out there," he added.
a good nervous; without nerves you don't get in the zone and without
being in the zone, you don't shoot the scores that you can shoot."
Leading scores after the third round of the 102nd Australian Open golf championship at the par-71 Australian Golf Club on Saturday: (a denotes amateur)
203 - Jason Day (AUS) 66-68-69
204 - Lucas Herbert (AUS) 67-66-71
206 - Jonas Blixt (SWE) 68-72-66, Matt Jones (AUS) 71-67-68
207 - Cameron Smith (AUS) 69-69-69
208 - Rhein Gibson (AUS) 72-68-68, Anthony Quayle (AUS) 67-69-72
209 - Mark Brown (NZL) 72-70-67, a-Takumi Kanaya (JPN), 71-73-65, a-Matias Sanchez (AUS) 71-70-68, Matthew Guyatt (AUS) 68-72-69, Cameron Davis (AUS) 63-72-74
210 - James Marchesani (AUS) 73-70-67, Craig Parry (AUS) 73-67-70, Jason Scrivener (AUS) 69-70-71, Dale Brandt-Richards (AUS) 73-66-71
211 - Jordan Spieth (USA) 70-71-70, Curtis Luck (AUS) 73-70-68, Brett Rumford (AUS) 70-72-69, Ben Campbell (NZL) 67-72-72