American Aaron Wise stares down one of his great shots at Royal Melbourne today. Picture: ANTHONY POWTER
Head pro Bruce Green has seen a lot of young players come through the gates at Royal Melbourne; few have impressed him more than Australian Master of the Amateurs leader Aaron Wise.
The world No.8, a University of Orgeon sophomore, will be joined in the last group tomorrow by giant Englishman Jonathan Thomson, who matched the American’s third-round 68 today to sit one back at three under.
And Victorian duo Andrew Schonewille and Thomas Power-Horan are the only others in red numbers at two under after firing third rounds of 70 and 71, respectively.
Newly minted Victorian Amateur champion Cameron John, of Commonwealth, fired a lovely 69 today to skip through the field to join Blake Proverbs (71) at one over, with his fellow Queenslander Charlie Dann (72) heading a large group at two over.
Defending champion and Golf Australia national squad member Zach Murray fell from contention when he bogeyed the last two holes for a 74 that left him six over in a tie for 29th.
But today belonged to Wise, who twice threatened to run away with the tournament at six under after starting at even par.
A sand-riddled double-bogey at the treacherous par-three 16th brought him back to the field, but two stellar one-putt par saves on the closing holes kept him in sole possession of the lead.
Wise by both name and nature, the 19-year-old and American teammate Matt NeSmith took time out of their busy schedule this week to spend time with Green – and the lessons they soaked in from the legendary pro are proving invaluable.
For the second time in three days, Wise made a flying start and was six under through six holes, including an eagle on the fourth.
But unlike in his problematic second-round 77 in high winds yesterday, Wise made light of what he described as the “inevitable” bogeys that the world’s sixth-ranked course will inflict.
“I was pretty angry at my round yesterday, because you know you’re going to make a bunch of bogeys on a day like that, but I only made two birdies (to offset them),” said the Californian, who nevertheless played the closing four holes on Thursday even par when others tumbled around him.
“I don’t know too many golfers who don’t get mad at themselves, but I think the important part is to get rid of it and move on. I was pretty mad after 13 because I’d butchered a few holes before that, but I let it out, got on the next tee box, took a couple of deep breaths, resest and took it from there.
“I was proud to par the last four holes. It’s very important – in top-level golf you can’t afford to waste shots because you’re mad; you’ve got to refocus on every one of them.
“Today, (caddie) Ollie me gave a couple of good reads early and we got some good numbers. We birdied two and three, then I made a 40-footer for eagle on four and a 35-footer on five – it was awesome.
“I bogeyed nine and 10 which is just going to happen out here if you get in some bad spots, but I had a great round going until I made that double on 16.
“Then I made two great saves on 17 and 18 to hold the round together” including a 3m par slider on the 17th, then a 13m bomb on the last after an errant trap shot.
Thomson was particularly steady on the back nine despite battling a sore back that required attention after a round that featured six birdies.
Melburnian Schonewille, who has been thereabouts without a big win in the past two seasons, was delighted to again put himself in contention.
“At last I put three rounds together,” said the burly Peninsula Kingswood member who will be in the final trio tomorrow.
“With wind and Royal’s fast greens, particularly (my) one over yesterday, that was the round I needed to have … so tomorrow I think I’ve just got to get out there and play my own game again.”
But for sheer highlight reel purposes, you couldn’t go past Power-Horan, who made three almost unbelievable sand saves for par in his closing 10 holes.
A university student who’s still yet to dedicate himself full-time to golf, Power-Horan used backboards, seemingly brakes and then nerves of titanium over his putter to scramble surreal pars on the 9th, 17th and 18th holes on his home course.
“I made a few good saves there,” he said with enormous understatement and cheeky grin.
“I probably saved three shots the last three holes which you can’t often say around here and I’m only two behind now, so that’s nice.
“But I was playing good early (when three under through 10), struggled towards the end with a few poor iron shots.
“But it doesn’t matter how well you’re playing, those last three holes are always going to test you out and I was lucky to escape them today.”
The final round starts at 12.30pm tomorrow with the leading group off at 2.30pm. Entry at Royal Melbourne is free.