For one more day, they will duel it out. Adam Scott and Jason Day started out at 1 and 2 in the Emirates Australian Open and nothing changed through a full day&aposs golf at Royal Sydney. There was no knockout punch; merely some shadow boxing by two of the best players in the world. They will wait until tomorrow to settle their little tete-a-tete, and Scott is a day away from either winning the triple crown of tournaments that he covets, or falling just short. It is bound to be a long day for him with the world No. 6 McIlroy in such close proximity. The others appear to be too far back to cause any upsets. South Australia&aposs Max McCardle, New South Welshman Matthew Jones and Victoria&aposs Richard Green are next-best at eight-under, a distant eight shots back from Scott&aposs 16-under. The Australian will start tomorrow with a nice, four-shot buffer on McIlroy, and it is surely down to two players. “It&aposs an exciting position to be in,&apos&apos Scott said afterward. “Obviously it&aposs a great chance to win my national championship tomorrow, and also win the three events down here which is an unbelievable spot to be in. If you&aposd told me a month ago I wouldn&apost have believed you. So one round away but a lot can happen. It&aposs a phenomenon behind me playing tomorrow. I&aposm sure he&aposs going to throw plenty at me.&apos&apos Asked why he had been so sceptical about winning the triple crown before this season, he explained: “I hadn&apost won two tournaments in a row … ever. There were no facts to back up that it would be a certainty that I would be sitting in this position. So to have this opportunity is a bit unreal. I&aposve talked about the possibility of it because Robert (Allenby in 2005) has done it. But that&aposs a lot of golf to play well.&apos&apos In truth, the two marksmen were below their best for much of today. Scott began at 12-under par and shot a four-under 68 which was testament to his ability to scramble rather than anything more significant. The Queenslander is in that space where he can score even when he does not play especially well, and he hit just five fairways today, a famine by his standards. He knows he has to do better tomorrow. “Chipping out and punching out from under trees is not how you win golf tournaments on Sunday.&apos&apos McIlroy carded a 70 that included two duffed chip shots in his double bogey at the fifth, and a few false shots. Scott surged to a five-shot lead when he made a trio of birdies at the seventh, eighth and ninth,and he was six ahead of his playing partner. But McIlroy pulled it back. Nice birdies at 10, 13, 14. It was at the par-three 14th that the shootout everyone wanted to see finally erupted. McIlroy teed off and hit it to just more than a metre; Scott followed him and stuck it almost as close. Scott rolled his birdie put in and so did McIlroy. The best players in the field have risen to the top. With more than 10,000 people crammed around the 18th fairway they conjured some magic, both hitting it close at the amphitheatre under the old clubhouse. The fans were 20-deep as Scott buried his birdie putt from just inside three metres; they groaned with anguish as McIlroy&aposs left-to-righter from less than two metres stayed out on the high side. “I knew I had to make because I believed he would make his,&apos&apos said the Australian. Scott showed his mettle, playing more poor shots than is his wont but not panicking. After his opening 62 he had said straight-faced that he was &apos&aposstruggling&apos&apos with his swing. Few believed him, but the comment has more relevance now. He is also tired; it is his fourth tournament in as many weeks and he has had commitments outside of the game, such as a corporate gig today and a dinner tonight. It is his long putter that has sustained him this week. He has had 24, 28 and 27 putts. “As long as the eye stays in with the putter I think I should be able to hang on,&apos&apos he said. It was a good scoring day with light winds, and the likes of Jason Day climbed back into the hunt with a 66, while veteran Stuart Appleby had 67. McCardle, Jones and Green will begin the day in the slots to take the three British Open Championship starts on offer, because Scott and McIlroy are already exempt. Three young men — Brady Watt, Anthony Murdaca (both -5) and Ryan Ruffels (-4) — are in with a chance of being the low amateur.
Author: Martin Blake At Royal Sydney