14 Jan 2022 | Professional golf |
PGA: Morgan draws on big names
by PGA of Australia
By Tony Webeck
There are two men in the corner of 22-year-old rookie Jed Morgan who know a thing or two about pressure.
Ricky Ponting captained the Australian cricket team to Ashes victories and World Cup wins; Graeme Lloyd was a member of the New York Yankees’ bullpen in their World Series win over the Atlanta Braves in 1996.
So when the Royal Queensland member who hails from the tiny town of Hatton Vale 70 minutes west of Brisbane begins his third round of the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship on Saturday with a six-stroke lead it will be their actions, not their words, that he will lean on.
Morgan set a new course record on Friday with a blistering morning round of eight-under 63 to post 14-under for the opening two rounds, the lowest 36-hole total to par in the Australian PGA since Peter Senior’s 15-under mark at Coolum in 2003.
It has brought the 22-under tournament record set by Nick O’Hern and Peter Lonard in 2006 well into range, O’Hern himself tweeting on Friday in between commentary stints on Fox Sports that “records are meant to be broken”.
Gatton product Andrew Dodt (66) will play alongside Morgan in the final group in Round 3 with Round 1 pacesetters Louis Dobbelaar (71) and Aaron Pike (70) a further shot back and seven shots from the leader.
Given he has been a professional golfer for only three months Morgan is entering uncharted territory on Saturday but will call on his exposure to two legends of Australian sport to cope with the moment.
Last year Morgan, the 2020 Australian Amateur champion at Royal Queensland, received a Tier 1 Scholarship within the 2021 Sport Australia Hall of Fame Scholarship and Mentoring Program, Australian cricket legend and golf fanatic Ponting appointed as his mentor.
“The pair have opened up, I guess their insight of professional sport and just dealing with this type of stuff,” said Morgan, who has shot 10-under at Royal Queensland off the blue tees. “I don't know if I take too many words or phrases from people, but I just more take how they act and stuff like that.
“I think they’re just both aggressive people, especially when they’re competing, and that’s how you’ve got to be.”
Sharing a coach in Grant Field, Morgan has also had first-hand exposure to Cameron Smith’s preparation and philosophy on golf, the pair sharing a laidback nature and love of fishing.
With a gallery tipped to expand with more friends and family across the weekend, Morgan has made no secret of his winning intentions given the position he has put himself at the halfway mark.
“I’m definitely thinking about it. It’s pretty hard not to if you’re leading,” Morgan said of his pursuit of the Joe Kirkwood Cup.
“It’s part of it. There’s plenty of guys ahead of me that have thought about winning and gone on to win, so no reason I can’t do it.
“I didn’t know if 14 (under) was really a number that we could get to through two rounds, but I’m there, so I just won’t put a cap on it.
“They had 35-under last week on a golf course that’s pretty big and long, so there’s no number or cap on it. Just got to keep making birdies.”
Marquee man Min Woo Lee (70) struggled for much of his second round but two late birdies at the 15th and 17th holes dragged him back inside the top 10 but 10 strokes off the lead.
Morgan’s score to par is the lowest 36-hole total to par in the Australian PGA Championship since Peter Senior’s 15-under at Coolum in 2003. As a member of Royal Queensland the setting won’t faze Morgan as he seeks to make his first professional victory one of great significance, Dodt pointing to the occasion itself as the question mark that will hang over the tournament front-runner.
“I get that he won the Aussie Amateur and it’s his home course but he hasn’t been in this situation before. We’ll see how he holds up tomorrow,” said Dodt, who will go head-to-head with Morgan on Saturday, the pair hailing from Gatton and Hatton Vale respectively 70 minutes west of Brisbane.
“His mindset will be completely different if he’s one-over through four or two-over through five from what it was today.
“It will be interesting to see how it handles it but the old cliche is true, I’ve got to worry about myself first and foremost.
“Obviously I’m a fair way back so got to keep the foot down.”
The 2020 Northern Territory PGA champion, Pike also knows the Royal Queensland layout well. He was hoping for a last-group pairing with Morgan to see how the rookie copes with the pressure.
That pressure will now have to come from the group ahead, Pike emphasising the enormity of the occasion the 22-year-old now finds himself in the centre of.
“He knows this place unbelievably well, so if one of us can put some pressure on him somehow then it stops being him just having a game at his golf club. All of a sudden he’s leading the Australian PGA,” said Pike, who shot to prominence by leading the 2006 Australian Masters as an amateur.
“That’s a big deal. It doesn’t matter who you are. You’re leading your national PGA Championship. It only takes him to just be slightly off, have an even-par round and one of us just have something in the mid-60s and all of a sudden it’s game on again.
“But at the end of the day I can’t control what he does. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try and light it up.
“That’s all I can do. If that’s good enough come Sunday, then that’s good enough.”
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