Date: October 25, 2014
Author: Martin Blake @ Royal Melbourne

Murdaca dominant at Asia-Pacific Amateur

Asian-Amateur Championship and a place in the field at Augusta National in 2015 is Antonio Murdaca's to win or lose.

A five-under 67 at Royal Melbourne today, his third consecutive round in the 60s, gave the 19-year-old Australian an eight-shot lead to carry into tomorrow's final round at 12-under par. His closest pursuers are at four-under and needing to go exceptionally low on the composite course tomorrow to have a chance of overhauling him.

Inevitably, his mind may wander overnight to the prize before him: a start in the Masters next year and also the qualifying for the Open Championship at St Andrews later this year, but his buffer is more than handy.

"Yes, it would be a childhood dream I guess,'' said Murdaca, whose first vivid memory of the tournament is of Tiger Woods' famous chip-in in 2005. "Waking up in the mornings to watch the Masters, it's pretty exciting to think about,but I'm not going to get too ahead of myself, and just go out tomorrow and play some golf.''

Murdaca came into this event, his first appearance in an AAC, as the ninth-ranked of the 10 Australians. But he has played like a champion, from Thursday afternoon when he was caught in by far the tougher conditions of the day and shot a 69, to this afternoon, when he made light of the pressure of leading.

The twice Australian junior champion made a two-putt birdie at the second hole to extend his lead, then another birdie at the sixth, and went to the turn three shots ahead of the field. Then he dominated the par-fives on the back side, almost taking eagle at the 14th to push his lead to four shots, by the 16th he made a nice par-save and held a six-shot lead, and at the long par-five 17th, he delivered what might turn out to be the thunder clap of the tournament.

After a perfect drive down the right side of the fairway, Murdaca took four iron from 240 yards and aimed for a gentle cut that would run up on to the green. Executed perfectly, it trickled up and ran over the side of the hole, coming within an inch of hitting the stick and delivering his first-ever double eagle (or albatross, as it is known in this part of the world). He tapped in for eagle and an eight-shot lead.

"We ended up hitting a four-iron and just wanted to land it short of the green, just picked my target in the background there and hit the shape I wanted to, and the ball came off nicely,'' he said later. "(It) moved a little bit of fade and landed short and just worked out pretty well for me.''

Murdaca, from the Grange Golf Club in Adelaide, is highly-regarded within Australia's elite amateur programs, having won an Australian junior title at just 14 years of age and then repeated three years later. Only a certain Adam Scott among Australians has won the national junior title twice, which is good company for Murdaca to be in.

On the slick Royal Melbourne greens (running at above 12 on the stimp meter today), he has not had a single three-putt in three completed rounds.

"Yes, I'm quite excited,'' he said. "I'm just going to come out tomorrow, same mindset as today, and hope I can have another great round.

"I don't think I would change anything tomorrow.  (It) just depends on the weather, the conditions, so I'm trying to hit my distances off tees.  So, (if) 240 is my distance, might be a four-iron today or might be a three-wood or driver tomorrow.  I don't think I'm going to change anything.

I think I'm probably going to try to manage my tempo a little bit.  I think I should be all right.''

Further information visit