Date: November 16, 2013
Author: Martin Blake / Royal Melbourne Golf Club

Scott to battle Singh in Masters showdown

Adam Scott is on the verge of a second consecutive home triumph as he sets out after the world No. 1 ranking. The towering figure of Vijay Singh, a former world No. 1, is at the head of those trying to halt his march. Scott caught fire for a third day in a row in the Talisker Masters at Royal Melbourne today, starting out as equal-leader and roaring through the front nine in just 30 shots to lead by four. As word passed around the old course almost every spectator in the facility made their way to the amphitheatre of the 10th green, and the Queenslander lipped out for another birdie to their dismay. They were five and six deep around that green, more people than at any Australian tournament in recent years other than the Presidents Cup in 2011 and Tiger Woods&apos 2009 Masters appearance. Scott&aposs US Masters win earlier this year has caught the public imagination. But that putt&aposs uncooperative circumnavigation of the hole would be a metaphor for the rest of his day. Scott seemed like he might have threatened the course record, Ernie Els&apos 60 in 2004, but ended up having to be content with 66, five-under-par. Two three-putts at the 11th and 12th greens, with his old weakness rearing its ugly head, cost him. Still, he picked up shots at the 15th and 17th holes and at 14-under-par through three rounds, it is his tournament to win or lose. Veteran Singh, who rattled around in 63, is four shots back but will play in the final group with Scott tomorrow. Also at 10-under are overnight leader Nathan Holman (70 today), Nick Cullen and Matthew Griffin (69). American Matt Kuchar is a further shot back and not out of the running. Not for the first time the famous composite course has brought the cream to the top. Scott had earlier won a head-to-head duel with 22-year-old Victorian Nathan Holman in some of the most entertaining golf seen on the sandbelt. Holman is a local, from the Woodlands club, and he did not show signs of backing down early. In just his fifth tournament as a professional he birdied three of the first four holes, sliding tricky downhill putts in for birdie at the third and fourth, to lead the tournament by two shots. But it all turned at the short par-three fifth. Scott hit it close and made birdie as Holman failed to get up and down from the difficult back-left trap. They were tied at the top and now the world No. 2 would surge ahead, rolling in nice birdie putts at the seventh, eighth and ninth holes. Suddenly at the turn it was a four-shot advantage before the putting issues brought Scott back to the field slightly. “I was trying to put together that round I feel like is close,&apos&apos he said later. “It didn&apost quite happen because I made mistakes on 11 and 12. So if it&aposs that quality of golf tomorrow a good score&aposs going to be out there for me.&apos&apos At one point Singh was seven shots from the lead but the Fijian, who has shown some decent form in America of late, picked up four shots in just three holes on the back nine. He had also birdied four of the first five holes to start the day, hitting it close. “The first nine was incredible,&apos&apos he said. “I felt like I could have birdied every hole.&apos&apos At 50, it is injuries that he says explain his inability to win a tournament in the past five years, an eternity for someone of his quality, a man with three majors. A knee operation, and subsequent back pain have made life difficult for him, but he is fully fit again now and he went close to winning a PGA Tour tournament in America recently. “I&aposm much stronger and healthier now,&apos&apos he said. “So hopefully I&aposm good enough to play the way I know how to play.&apos&apos If Scott wins tomorrow he will be in with a realistic chance of matching Robert Allenby&aposs unique feat of winning the triple crown of all three big Australian tournaments in a season, achieved by the Victorian in 2005. Scott is playing in the Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney later this month, but in between he is representing Australia in the World Cup with Jason Day. On current form, it is not beyond him to win all four. But first, he has to get negotiate tomorrow&aposs proceedings. Scott and Singh will tee off in the last group at 1.20pm. They are quite close, having played several times as teammates in the Presidents Cup, with Scott joking that the Fijian is “a senior Tour player&apos&apos now. But there is none of the reported animosity from certain players toward Singh in Scott&aposs eyes. “I&aposve only every got along rally well with Vijay. He&aposs only ever been nice to me. That&aposs all I can judge off.&apos&apos