Date: December 08, 2007
Author: Luke Buttigieg at Coolum

Sabbatini holds slender lead

The race for the 2007 Cadbury Schweppes Australian PGA Championship is wide open with Rory Sabbatini leading by just a shot from five rivals after 54 holes at Coolum. The world No.11 added a five-under 67 to earlier rounds of 68 and 67 to move to 14-under and the narrowest of leads from American Jason Gore, two-time champion Peter Lonard, young Aussies Adam Bland and Michael Sim and Kiwi David Smail. Gore posted the low round of the tournament on day three, missing the course record by just one as he carded an eight-under 64, while Lonard signed for a 68, Bland shot 65, Sim did likewise for the second time in three days and Smail also put up a 67. Overnight leader Adam Scott had a day to forget but rallied late to shoot 72 and shares seventh place with Victorians Richard Green (66) and Cameron Percy (70) and New South Wales duo Scott Gardiner (67) and Steven Conran (68) on 10-under. Defending champion Nick O&aposHern and his fellow Western Australian Stephen Leaney leapt to minus nine with matching 65s, and they are level with Victorian Scott Laycock (71) and American Ryan Moore (66). With the greens softened by overnight rain and the temperature hovering in the mid-20s with only a light breeze, Gore had a brilliant front nine as he picked up an eagle and four birdies in five holes, and two further birdies coming home took him to the top. “They always say it can always be better but I&aposm pretty happy with the way it was,” Gore said. “I got off to a good start, so that always makes it a little bit easier on the back nine for sure, especially how difficult and tricky this back nine is.” But each time Gore pulled clear he was reeled in, firstly by Lonard, who had another bogey-free round that included three birdies in four holes to the turn and a fourth at the 12th. Sabbatini started superbly with birdies at the first two holes but with his playing partner Scott not having the best of days the South African bogeyed the fifth to fall behind. Two more birdies in a row undid that damage but he then gave back another shot at the 10th, before three birdies in his final six holes saw him surge clear with a round remaining. First-round leader Sim, who followed his opening 65 with a 73 on Friday despite starting with an early eagle, roared back into contention with another flawless performance of his own, including four birdies in six holes after the turn. Smail was only two shots from the lead overnight and steadily maintained his lofty place on the leaderboard with five birdies during his round, while Bland picked up birdie quartets before and after the turn, with his only dropped shot coming at the 10th. Having already seen his lead disappear, Scott began with a bogey at the third but looked back on track with successive birdies at eight and nine before disaster struck when he took three shots to get up onto the 12th green. From the edge of the green he two-putted for a triple-bogey eight to slump to eight-under, but birdies at the 15th and 18th holes at least gave him hope of a maiden Australian win if he can get going on Sunday. O&aposHern actually began his day with a bogey at the first but responded brilliantly with eight birdies to haul himself back into contention, while Leaney&aposs round was littered with nine birdies but a couple of bogeys prevented him matching the course record. Greg Chalmers and Kiwi Michael Long both shot 66 to be eight-under with Ryan Haller (68), while JB Holmes (70), Michael Brennan (71), Craig Scott (69) and Brad Kennedy (71) are equal 19th on minus seven. New South Welshman Ben Burge looked set to upstage the rest of the field when he went out in 29 thanks to birdies at every hole bar the par-three third and sixth, but a bogey treble coming home saw him match Brett Rumford and Michael Curtain with 68s that leave them six-under overall.