Date: November 16, 2013
Author: Luke Buttigieg at Royal Melbourne, Omnisport

Scott closes in on back-to-back Masters wins

Adam Scott is on track for consecutive Australian Masters titles as he stormed to a commanding four-stroke lead after three rounds at Royal Melbourne. While veteran Fijian Vijay Singh fired a 63 on Saturday to loom as a threat, the defending champion and 2013 US Masters winner could have had an even greater cushion than the one he currently enjoys at the top of leaderboard. Scott ominously shot 66 on Friday, having narrowly missed a succession of birdie putts, and when he collected five birdies to the turn on Saturday he appeared to be making good on his claim that a low score was just around the corner. But having overcome an early two-shot deficit behind fellow overnight leader Nathan Holman early in round three to lead by four through 10 holes – with no blemishes in his previous 38 holes – Scott dropped consecutive shots. The stumbles would prove only a temporary setback for the world number two though as he regained his composure with some clutch pars and threw in further birdies at 15 and 17 for the second day running to sign for another five-under 66. That leaves him at 14 under and four shots clear of Holman, who hung tough all day en route to a 70, Matthew Griffin (69), first-round leader Nick Cullen (69) and Singh, who shot the round of the tournament so far. A day after wasting a good front nine when he found trouble after the turn, world number eight Matt Kuchar (67) would have been ruing a bogey at the last that dropped him back to outright sixth on nine under. New Zealander Ryan Fox, whose dad Grant was a member of the All Blacks team that won the 1987 Rugby World Cup, is outright seventh at minus eight thanks to a 66, one clear of Zimbabwean Brendon De Jonge (68) and two ahead of Brody Ninyette (70). Mathew Goggin and Geoff Ogilvy are among those tied for 10th at three under thanks to matching 67s, while Scott Strange had the shot of a day with an ace at the 14th for a 68 and a share of 20th on minus one and Jarrod Lyle&aposs inspiring comeback continued with a 70. Last-start Australian PGA Championship winner Scott birdied the opening hole for the third time in as many days but found himself two back when Holman matched that and then picked up further strokes at the 3rd and 4th. Holman would then bogey two of his next three holes though, with Scott making birdies, and the Queenslander went further ahead when he made it three birdies in a row and four in five holes to the turn. But from seemingly nowhere Scott lost his way briefly as he three-putted both the 11th and 12th holes, halving his advantage, before he steadied and then picked up the late birdies to keep himself well clear heading into Sunday. Griffin staged an impressive fightback after a double bogey at the 5th, grabbing four birdies in his final 11 holes to stay in contention and, having reeled off eight pars in a row before dropping another shot at the 16th, Holman also showed fight by birdying 17. While Griffin, Holman and Cullen headline the next generation of local stars, Singh started superbly with birdies at four of his first five holes before answering his only bogey of the day at the 9th with a birdie at 10 and two more at 14 and 16, either side of an eagle at the 15th. Without a win in five years but having finished second just weeks ago at the Open, 50-year-old Singh was delighted with his round and looking forward to the chance to end his drought playing alongside Scott on Sunday. “I played really well, I mean, the first nine holes was incredible, I thought I could have birdied every hole,” said Singh, who has played Royal Melbourne several times before but is here for the first time in 12 years. “I made a very long putt, or a pretty good putt, on 10 which kind of gave me momentum again and then I played pretty solid from there in. “I didn&apost play any different than I did the first two days, I just managed my game much better. “The first day was my caddy&aposs second round of golf over here, so we hit a few wrong clubs off the tees on the first day but I kind of controlled it yesterday a little better and today was much better.”