Date: November 25, 2006
Author: Ben Wise

Pike still in the hunt

By Ben Wise at Huntingdale, Sportal Golf Australia national team member Aaron Pike remains in touch of leader Justin Rose after the third round of the MasterCard Australian Masters at Huntingdale on Saturday. A stunning long-iron approach to the 555-metre par-five 14th hole which set up a tap-in eagle helped Englishman Rose to a two-stroke advantage over Raphael Jacquelin, Greg Chalmers and Pike. Frenchman Jacquelin carded a 67 in the cool, overcast conditions to be 11-under, while Western Australian leftie Chalmers, who is seeking to put the disappointment of losing his US Tour card behind him, signed for a 68. Overnight leader Pike started his round horribly after entering day three at 11-under with a two-stroke lead, the 21-year-old making a double-bogey at the first following a wayward drive, and a bogey at the second. But a birdie on the last courtesy of a successful 25-foot putt ensured he enters the final day still in the hunt to become the youngest-ever and only amateur to win the gold jacket. Playing partner Rose later paid credit to the Northern Territorian, who won the 2005 Queensland Amateur championship. “He putted confidently (today) and could have been a couple better, but it was a great way for him to finish,” Rose said. World No.15 and tournament drawcard Paul Casey carded a 67 to be a further three shots back at eight-under, the Englishman joined on that score by 1997 and 2002 champion Peter Lonard (69) and Spaniard Carl Suneson (69). Australian Marcus Fraser fired a brilliant 66 – the low round of the day – to be in a pack of seven players – Peter O&aposMalley (68), Adam Bland (67), Tony Carolan (72) and former champions Peter Senior (68), Craig Parry (69) and Richard Green (68) at seven-under. Rose had been steady until his eagle at 14, accounting for an early bogey with birdies on three of the par-fives – the sixth, seventh and 10th holes. A late bogey at 17 – a hole he dropped a shot on during Thursday&aposs round of 69 – gave the chasing pack hope. Casey had a roller-coaster ride after opening his third round with a birdie. He bogeyed the short par-four second and the tough par-three fifth – the day&aposs statistically hardest hole – but bounced back by eagling the sixth when he knocked a three-iron to 12-feet and converted, before birdies at nine, 10 and 11 moved him into striking distance of the lead. He then birdied 13 and 14, however, a late bogey at 17 when a poor swing on his approach shot resulted in his ball winding up in a devilish greenside trap, stopped his charge somewhat. Casey said that he travelled to Australia for a relaxing time, and considers it a bonus that he is in contention heading into the final round on Sunday. “The first two days were very slack. On the first day, the brain was not really in gear,” Casey said after his round. “I trundled through the second round and made the cut, then for some reason today it caught fire there in the middle of the round.” “I am going to try very hard tomorrow and see what happens. If I play like I did today it will be enjoyable, and hopefully put me near the top.” Australian Open champion John Senden (74) endured a frustrating round. The world No.74 dropped three shots in his first four holes, made birdies on six, 11 and 14, but then gave another two shots back on his way in to be five-under overall. Defending champion Robert Allenby (72) was up to six-under overall after four holes, but dropped a couple of shots en route to being four-under. New Zealander Michael Campbell did not make the plus-one halfway cut, the 2005 US Open champion managing rounds of only 74-73 on the opening days.