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Zunic magic turns PGA on head

Jordan Zunic
Jordan Zunic lit up Royal Pines today. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Jordan Zunic fired an extraordinay course record-equalling 64 to charge to the lead at the Australian PGA Championship today.

With Sunday's finale expecting bad weather at Royal Pines, PGA officials have brought forward the final round by three hours and will play in three-balls off two tees in a bid to ensure play is completed.

But they'll have to get up pretty early to beat Zunic if he plays as he did in the third round today.

Zunic began with a lengthy birdie putt on the 1st before birdies on holes 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13, 14, 15 and 16 to sit at 11 under par with two holes to go.

But just when the young New South Welshman appeared set to run away with the Joe Kirkwood Cup, he closed with a bogey on 17 and a double-bogey on 18 to bring the field back into contention.

Most notably, hometown hero Cam Smith charged home with a 67 to sit second at 14 under, three shots behind Zunic with Adam Bland (71) a shot further back and the next best back at 10 under.

Zunic, the 2015 New Zealand Open champ, wasn't fazed by his final 15 minutes, instead focusing on his brilliant first few hours.

"I just think of 16 good holes, that's all I see in my mind and that's all I'm sure we'll talk about tonight because I played unbelievable golf for 16 holes," he said.

"If you had told me that I was going to have 64 at the start of today, I would have taken it, that's for sure. It was a shame what happened on the last two holes, but to be honest, I didn't even do much wrong.

"I still stuck to my processes on the last two holes, I just got a little bit unlucky on 17, I just pulled my 2-iron a little left.

"And then on the last hole, my drive was pretty good, just slightly right of where I was trying to hit it and unfortunately caught that bunker as well. In my mind I don't really feel like I did much wrong even though I did drop a few on the last two holes."

Zunic, who also held the round one lead, has cited fellow Professional and former Australian PGA champion Nick O’Hern’s book ‘Tour Mentality: Inside the Mind of a Tour Pro’ as the catalyst for a turnaround in his mental game.

"I actually had a chat with Nick this morning before I teed off. He agreed to meet me this morning, just had a bit of a chat, nothing too serious," Zunic said.

"I just told him how I was feeling and what I did yesterday and how I've been doing things really well.  He just reassured me that what I was doing was good.

"It was just nice to sit down and talk to him.  It just helped me probably calm the nerves a little bit before I teed off."

Queenslander Smith had a front-row seat for Zunic’s extraordinary round.

“He put on a bit of a display the first 13 or 14 holes there.  He was on a bit of a run, it was pretty incredible to watch actually," Smith said.

"And in that wind he was just a magician on the greens as well.  I think he would have had 15 putts through 14 holes, it was amazing."

Smith said he had to stick to his game plan but at the same time, not let Zunic streak away to an unassailable lead.

"I just didn't let Jordan's round get ahead of me there, I just kept doing what I was doing. I knew I was playing well, I knew I was putting well. Just needed a couple chances and took advantage of them."

Victorian David Bransdon had his best round of the tournament carding a 66 to be 10 under and tied fourth alongside fellow Victorian Marc Leishman who had a day to forget.

The Greg Norman medallist struggled to get anything going with his putter, but remained positive.

"It was a tough day, I actually played quite well early and just couldn't make any putts unfortunately," Leishman said.

"I bogeyed 12, doubled 13. Frustration got the best of me on the 13th tee there. I got one birdie coming in, a couple good par saves.

"So it’s disappointing, but I think I'm, what, seven or eight back going into tomorrow. I need to go out and attack and try and shoot as low as I can."

Dual Australian PGA champion Greg Chalmers is sixth at nine under, while Sergio Garcia admitted fatigue played a factor in what he said was a disappointing round of 70 that left him at eight under.

"I am proud of myself because I feel like I'm going on fumes, so for that obviously my head is not as sharp as it should be and I'm making stupid mistakes here and there. But other than that, I feel like I fought hard again today," Garcia said.

Victorian pair Lucas Herbert and Jack Wilson round out the top 10 at seven under.

LEADERBOARD


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