Date: September 24, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

World within reach for brilliant Australians

A Curtis Luck birdie rampage, the fourth-lowest round in event history, has Australia on the verge of its fourth World Amateur Team Championship.

Observers in Mexico said a Luck explosion had been in the offing after watching him in the first two rounds.

And it didn’t take long today for the US Amateur champion to scruff both the Iberostar course and the Eisenehower Trophy itself for Australia on day three with a 63 that left his team at an incredible 32 under par – a whopping 16-stroke cushion.

The young West Australian had begun his opening rounds “just a little slow and never really got rolling”.

“So today I was really determined to get off to a good start. I hit a good drive down the right to open up the flag a bit and then hit a 9-iron about (50cm) directly over the flag,” Luck said.

“Then I made another birdie on the second and I was just in a totally different zone today.”

Australian team manager Matt Cutler couldn’t find the perfect description for Luck’s imperious nine-under-par tallly, but he knows alongside another fine Cam Davis 68 that the 16-stroke lead it gave Australia was priceless.

“I don’t know if you say he was `in the zone’ or ‘had it on a string’ or whatever, but that was just superb to watch and could have been anything,” Cutler said.

“He actually didn’t make any long putts today, just hit it close enough times that he didn’t really have to worry too much about making them.”

Luck, who’s made no secret of the importance he places on the Eisenhower Trophy, paid tribute to his teammates afterwards.

“I wasn’t playing badly or anything, but you feel a bit guilty when you can’t get a score to count,” the Cottesloe ace said.

“But we’ve been playing really well as a team and I’m glad I could contribute today to do my part.”

A third birdie on the fifth solidified Luck’s start, three in a row from the eighth set Australia alight and then three more on 12, 14 and 16 just blew away the opposition.

Davis, who leads the individual standings after rounds of 67-66-68 left him 14 under, also was superb and didn’t blemish his card.

Fellow Sydneysider Harrison Endycott, so impressive in the opening rounds, began with two bogeys and two double-bogeys in his opening six holes today and was happy to learn that his 73 didn’t count to the daily team total.

But Cutler said the way he fought back from being five over through six holes and narrowly missing a birdie putt on the last to finish even par typified what the Australian team spirit had been all week.

“`Harro’ was a bit down on himself early, but we still knew that we might have to count his score, so the way he came back was just superb, even though it won’t show on the scoreboard.

“That’s what the boys have been about all this week. They really don’t want to leave the job in the others’ hands and put any pressure on their mates.

“It’s a fantastic team attitude and bond they have.”

Both Cutler and Luck said there would be no need to change the formula heading into tomorrow’s final round with an almost impregnable buffer.

Cutler said final team instructions wouldn’t be hammered out until the morning, but “there’s no need to change what they’ve been doing – it’s been going pretty well, I’d say”.

Paul McBride (69) and Jack Hume (66) brought Ireland up into second position overall 16 strokes behind at -16 with the dual defending champion United States a further shot back in third.

The Australians, remarkably, sit first, second and sixth on the individual standings with Luck (-12) and Endycott (-6) all clear of any individual representative of the closest chasing teams.