12 Jan 2023 | Amateur golf |
#AusAm: Guan, Michel lead chase of internationals
by Martin Blake
Budding course architect Lukas Michel and rising star Jeffrey Guan are in the mix for a national championship courtesy of an 18th-hole meltdown by Ireland’s Robert Moran at the Australian Amateur today.
Moran, Taishi Moto (Japan) and Kazuma Kobori (New Zealand) are joint leaders at 9-under through 54 holes, but Michel and Guan are just two shots back at 7-under, courtesy of a dramatic double bogey by Moran at the 18th hole.
The Irishman’s finish was extraordinary; he had willed himself to a two-shot lead with the par-5 18th to come where a good player might expect to make birdie, but in what might turn out to be a tournament-shaping moment, he smothered his second shot from the fairway up on to the first tee and against a fence near the clubhouse, took a free drop, bladed his chip over the green and posted a 7 to compact the field considerably in a few short moments.
“I didn’t play too good but I scrambled really good for 17 holes, then I hit a couple of terrible shots up the last and it was a fair enough result for the shots I hit,” said Moran, who plays out of the Castle club in Ireland.
“The second shot was on an upslope, in between clubs, and I smothered it left. It was a weird spot to be. I don’t think anyone plans out that shot in a practice round. My short game was pretty good all day, but I hit a pretty useless pitch. I’ll get over it.”
Sydney’s Guan, the 18-year-old who has twice won the national junior championship already to earn rave reviews in the golf world, had his moments, too. He was close to the lead as he walked down the par-4 16th hole at 9-under, but his eight iron second shot to the green flared right and into the thick scrub that is prevalent at New South Wales, and the ball never materialised.
A double bogey resulted, and at the par-5 18th, from just off the fringe for two, he could only make par and post 71.
Still at 7-under he is in contention for what would be a groundbreaking win for one of the most talented young players Australia has produced in some time. “I didn’t really play well the last couple,” he said. “I think tomorrow if I make less dumb decisions hopefully everything goes well for me.”
It was that kind of day at New South Wales, with the winds suddenly up from the benign conditions of earlier in the week, and just about everyone struggling at different moments.
Michel, the mature-age amateur with the passion for course design hung tough to post 71 and he has a shot at winning tomorrow. Kobori began with a share of the lead, lost his mojo momentarily, but held on for a 71 and remains on top, while Japan’s Moto was steady with a 71 that was a good score in the conditions.
Remarkably the day’s low round was shot by All Abilities champion Kipp Popert, from England, a 67. Eagles at the fifth and the eighth were a highlight, and he is in the group at 7-under with a chance of a win that would make some headlines around the world of golf.
Popert, who suffers from a form of cerebral palsy, won the Australian All Abilities Championship in Melbourne late last year.
“It would be pretty cool,” he said. “I’ll just do what I always to which is follow my process, hit every shot as best I can, and if it comes down to the last few and I’m in it, I’ll try to hole the birdie putts.”
Eleven players are within two shots of the lead entering the final round, with Scotland’s Gregor Tait and England’s Arron Edwards-Hill just a shot from the lead.
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