Date: February 14, 2009
Author: Angus Morgan at Metropolitan GC, Sportal

Open for the taking

The 2009 Australian Open title is there for the taking by any one of 18 players within four shots of the lead going into Sunday&aposs final round at Melbourne&aposs Metropolitan Golf Club. South Korea&aposs Lee Chang-Hee scrapped and scrimped her way around Metro on Saturday for a two-over 75 to retain her place at the top of the leaderboard at minus-five. The 20-year-old leads by one from a pair of unheralded Americans, Alison Walshe and Beth Allen. The expected surge from tournament favourite Karrie Webb, who&aposs chasing a fifth Open title and third in succession, never eventuated. Webb is among a trio of players at three-under following a second successive 75. The 34-year-old endured a wretched back nine where she conceded three strokes after completing the front nine in 36, one under. Asked after her round what it will take to win, Webb said, “Not to make as many mental mistakes as I did today”. “If I can do that I will have a good chance tomorrow.” Lee appeared to be on the way out when she bogeyed four successive holes from eight-through-11. Reassured by a glance at the leaderboard that most of the rest of the field was faring no better, Lee recovered her nerve and managed to pick up a critical birdie at the 15th on the run home. No American has won the Australian Open in the lifetime of either of the United States contenders – San Diego-based Allen who fired an even-par round of 73 on Saturday, and Irish-born Walshe a graduate of Arizona University who&aposs contesting just her second tournament as a professional. Playing on an invitation from Golf Australia after competing in the World Amateurs in Adelaide late last year, the 23-year-old fired a second successive four-under round of 69 on Saturday to advance while everyone else around her was backpedalling. Unfazed by being in unchartered territory, Walshe said she was looking forward to fighting for what would be an incredible breakthrough victory on Sunday. “I think you always want to win,” said Walshe, who picked up a small cheque after making the cut but finishing well down the list on her professional debut at last week&aposs Australian Ladies Masters at Royal Pines. “It&aposs definitely what I&aposm shooting for tomorrow, but I don&apost want to get ahead of myself and shoot myself out of it.” “I just want to be steady and start off tomorrow morning and be patient and let the shots come when they come.” “I just hope I hold on.” The title prospects of Georgina Simpson, who started the day with a share of second place at minus-five, must now be considered marginal following her 77. Earlier Simpson&aposs compatriot Laura Davies rocketed into contention after posting a sizzling third-round six-under, 67 – the best round of the day – which lifted her to two-under, three off the lead. On her 19th visit to Australia, the powerful Davies was furious with herself for dropping three shots over the final three holes of her second round on Friday. But she more than made up for that with a run of four birdies on Saturday&aposs front nine followed by the highlight of the round, an eagle three at the 422-metre par-five 15th. After starting the day settled mid-field at plus-four, the 45-year-old is now right in the hunt. Davies has been drawn to partner Webb on Sunday in the fourth-last group scheduled to tee off at 12.53pm AEDT. Last-start winner and world No.20 Katherine Hull completed a three-under round of 70 to get back to plus-one overall. For much of the day the 5997-metre layout situated in Melbourne&aposs south-eastern suburbs was shrouded in smoke haze from the Victorian bushfires which have devastated large tracts of Gippsland over the past week.