Date: December 15, 2007
Author: Jason Avedissian

Mates go head-to-head

Three years ago Robert Allenby rolled out the welcome mat for little-known Australian golfer James Nitties at his Florida home. The Melbourne-born youngster was in America ahead of representing Australia at the Eisenhower Trophy in Puerto Rico in 2004. The pair, along with fellow Australians Michael Sims and Jarrod Lyle, practised, ate and sunk some beers with the experienced golfer. “I looked after them for a few days,” Allenby said on Saturday as he shared the lead with Nitties following the third round of the MFS Australian Open in Sydney. “I practised with them, took them to Jack Nicklaus&apos club, and looked after them.” “He&aposs (James) a great guy and has a great game. It&aposs great to see him playing well.” “He&aposs a tough competitor, still learning.” But on Sunday, Allenby and Nitties will go head-to-head as they share the lead at 10-under ahead of the final day of the Open at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney. “Off the course, he&aposs just a normal Aussie dude,” Nitties said of his meeting with Allenby in Florida in 2004. “We went over for a BBQ and he took us out on his boat.” “We drank some beers, but on the course, he&aposs determined and tenacious.” “Hopefully it will be comfortable for me tomorrow (Sunday) as I&aposve played with him before.” But the 25-year-old can expect no favours as Allenby attempts to win his 21st career tournament. After a three-under 69, the 36-year-old warned he is approaching career-best form and is hungry for yet another win on home soil. “I swung it the best I&aposve swung it all year,” Allenby said. “It was tough today, really tricky out there. I made some good putts, made some good clutch putts.” “I&aposve been working hard on my swing all year and really hit some unbelievable shots out there.” “But, it&aposs the Australian Open and it&aposs a tough tournament to win.” Nitties too is excited about sharing the lead with Allenby as he attempts to claim the Stonehaven Cup. “I&aposm happy with the result,” he said of his three-under 69. “I played scrappy early, but really happy with the result.” “It was tough to gauge which way the wind was going. The front nine it was pretty consistent but the back nine it really swelled there.” “The greens really got hard towards the end, all week we&aposve been playing at the pin, you had to play before it a little today.” “I&aposll sleep well this sort of thing does not keep me up any more.” “I&aposm a really light sleeper. I&aposll sleep like a baby, up every two hours crying nah, just joking.”