Date: October 28, 2017
Author: Mark Hayes in Wellington

Erratic Aussies remain in hunt

The Australian Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship hopefuls did their best to shoot themselves in the collective foot today – it’s just lucky they weren’t accurate enough shots to inflict fatal damage.

The trio of Min Woo Lee, Shae Wools-Cobb and Dylan Perry combined for 11 bogeys and a double today, yet all managed to eke out even-par rounds of 71 that left them inside the top 10 with one round to play in their chase for a Masters and Open Championship berth.

Lee will start in the last group with Chinese pair Lin Yuxin (-8) and Andy Zhang (-7) after they fired 69 and 67 respectively to knock the Australians out of the lead for the first time this week at Royal Wellington.

But, as Lee’s caddie and coach Ritchie Smith noted afterwards, today’s combination of the Leyland Brothers and Seve Ballesteros left a lot of scope for improvement in the all-important final round.

The West Australian remarkably hit just four of 14 fairways, yet played some exemplary escape shots to end the day on the same total at which he began the third round with the lead.

“I didn’t really get anything going and it was a struggling day,” Lee said.

“But if your `C Game’ is square, I think you’re doing pretty well, especially at a big event like this.

“Hopefully tomorrow I’ll hit a few more fairways and sink a few more putts and it could be anything.”

His roommate Wools-Cobb was solid for nine holes after an opening bogey and at one point shared the lead at seven under after successive birdies on the ninth and 10th holes.

But a double-bogey after an errant six-iron found an unplayable lie in the wilds behind the 11th green was the start of a calamitous stretch for the quietly spoken Queenslander.

Bogeys followed on the 12th and 15th with a virtual bogey thrown in on the short par-four 14th after being on the fringe for one and taking three putts to leave him five behind and floundering.

Yet, typifying an extraordinary rollercoaster ride, Wools-Cobb drilled an improbable eagle putt on the final green to roar home and book a berth in the second-last group tomorrow.

“That’s definitely a good thing for me, to get out of the crowd a little bit … I’d definitely have taken it at the start of the week,” said Wools-Cobb, who predicted 11 under would get the job done tomorrow, leaving him requiring a 65 to finish.

“I’ve had 63 on the first day, so hopefully I can do it again.”

Perry opened with a rush today, almost holing out on the first hole to set up a kick-in birdie to get to three under. Yet he, too, was not immune to the bogey bug.

The New South Welshman dropped a shot when his second to the par-five fourth found the water and then took three consecutive bogeys from the seventh hole to fall precariously close to the line of non-contention.

But showing his trademark fighting spirit, Perry hit back to play the inward nine in three under to squirrel his way back into the fourth-last group.

“I played well today but got frustrated for a few holes and it led to a few bogeys,” he said.

“But I’m only six back and as we’ve seen, anything can happen on this course … if I can get hot on the front nine tomorrow and try to put a bit of pressure on, I’m still a chance, definitely.”

Sadly, the same probably can’t be said about the other Aussies.

New South Wales pair Harrison Endycott (74) and Travis Smyth (75) uncustomarily struggled to find birdies and fell to two and three over, respectively.

Likewise, Queenslander Charlie Dann just couldn’t find momentum today and carded a 75 to fall back to seven over.

The final group tomorrow is off at 7.25am Australian Eastern Daylight Savings time.