AILING ALLENBY CLINGS TO LEAD Sunday, 3:30pm Overnight leader Robert Allenby is clinging to the lead midway through the final round of the Australian Open at Moonah Links, despite a nagging finger problem. The Victorian has dipped from nine under par at the start of the day to six under and in turn, his lead has been slashed to three shots. Allenby, who injured his finger late in yesterday&aposs third round, stumbled with four bogeys in the first six holes today as he struggled with his hand problem. A birdie two at the seventh halted his decline and he reached the turn with his pursuers at bay. Queenslander John Senden and Victorian Martin Doyle have emerged as the new challengers halfway through the day. Senden and Doyle both moved the three under the card and three shots behind Allenby. US Tour player Rod Pampling and Paul Sheehan from New South Wales were a further shot back at two under the card. Victorian Stuart Appleby mounted an early charge with a trio of birdies in the front nine but then followed with four straight bogeys to fall back to one under par. Former dual champion Aaron Baddeley has slipped back to one over the card while World No.8 Adam Scott was again battling and was two over near the end of his final round. THOMSON SPRINGS TO MOONAH DEFENCE Sunday, 2:20pm Golf legend Peter Thomson has mounted a spirited defence of Moonah Links in the face of criticism from a number of star players in the MFS Australian Open. He was responding to remarks from Craig Parry and Stuart Appleby who said the course was too tough and unsuitable as a national championship venue. Thomson also stoutly defended the preparation of the course by the Australian Golf Union. He said that Moonah was a proper test and players needed to deal with conditions such as swirling winds and fast greens. “I don&apost think they need any sympathy,” the five-times British Open champion said. “In a real championship circumstance it ought to put them to their highest possible test of skill and this has happened here in the last few days since the wind got up.” Thomson said neither the British nor US ruling golf bodies would accept criticism from players. “It would be a very sad day when the players were able to select the course on which they want to play,” he said. “The R and A wouldn&apost have a bar of that, nor would the USGA. “In fact, the USGA for the last 50 years of my lifetime, have been responsible for making courses so difficult that people have to take three irons off the tees. “The USGA doesn&apost buckle when it gets a bit of criticism, nor does the R and A and I&aposd like to think that our championship joins that category. “In order to get a championship here that somehow gets near that rating, we&aposve got to have a course comperable – and that&aposs what this is,” he said. “I think the AGU wants to lift the image of Australian golf and one of the ways of lifting it is to have a course which is as difficult as any British Open course,” Thomson said. ALLENBY&aposS LATE OPEN FITNESS BID Sunday, 12:50pm Tournament leader Robert Allenby was still getting treatment on an injured hand today in an 11th hour bid to win the MFS Australian Open at Moonah Links. The Victorian has a five shot cushion at nine under the card but serious doubts remain over his ability to complete the final round. The 1994 champion re-injured a nerve problem in the finger of his right hand late in yesterday&aposs third round and was unsure whether he would be fit to tee off. He was undergoing intensive physiotherapy but agreed the problem would hamper any attempt he made to be aggressive on the course. Allenby said he could be in trouble if he strayed off the fairways and found himself having to hack through rough or was in a poor lie. However he said he would play the Australian Open “with a broken leg” and was hopeful he would survive the round. His main challenger is Paul Sheehan from New South Wales – a Japan Tour player who is four under the card in outright second spot. Sharing third spot one shot back are Aaron Baddeley, the dual Open winner, Queenslander Rod Pampling and West Australian Nick O&aposHern.