13 Mar 2021 | Queensland Open |

Wood chases home state title

by Contributor

2021 Qld Open Chris Wood
Chris Wood on his way to a blemish free 7-under 65 in RD3 of the Isuzu Queensland Open. Photo: Kirsty Wrice/Golf Australia

- By Jim Tucker


Local hope Chris Wood fired a fine 65 to lead the hungry posse of challengers set to make Sunday a thrilling shootout for the Isuzu Queensland Open.

The Wynnum Golf Club member sunk a nerveless 2m par putt on the final green at Pelican Waters in Saturday’s third round to lock in a one-stroke lead.

There are 18 players within five strokes of the lead as the storied tournament heads to a climax overflowing with birdies and tests of temperament.

Wood (68-68-65) has already reached the 15-under-par mark that Anthony Quayle posted to win last year’s event on the same course outside Caloundra.

Quayle, still an outside chance to defend at 10-under, looks a good judge. Pre-tournament, he tipped 20-under as this week’s winning score and it has been endorsed by Sydney’s Andrew Evans.

Evans (68-70-65) was the hottest player on course for 90 minutes with a streak of five straight birdies when he was rolling in putt after putt.

“We’ve had four or five 65s today so someone is going to get to 20-under. It’s very bunched at the top so the winner could come from anywhere,” Evans said.

Californian Derek Ackerman (68-69-65) and Newcastle’s Blake Windred (67-69-66) are the closest challengers one behind Wood. The leading trio will tee off as the final group at 10.50am (AEST).

At 13-under is where the threat lies because Pelican Waters member Shae Wools-Cobb (71-67-65) will know the Sunday pin positions and best landing targets on the greens better than anyone. Evans sits beside him.

Wood had seven birdies and no blemishes on the card and feels the belief he gained from his breakthrough win at last month’s Victorian PGA will help.

“I’m going to draw back on that experience. Anyone can go out and shoot a low number here,” Wood, 30, said.

“No one is safe out there so I’ve got to be aggressive and keep sinking the putts. I hope to do the members from Wynnum proud because I've always wanted to win my home state Open.”

Windred slam-dunked a brilliant shot from the wet sand for eagle on the par five 17th to catapult him up the leaderboard.

“It’s a definitely a shot I practice a lot but I had a branch in my backswing,” Windred said.

“It changed the way I executed the shot but I’m thankful because it played out real nice. I really needed that.”

With just one bogey in 54 holes, he feels his game is in the right shape for his first title.

Ackerman has played the full Aussie tour this year. He’s the lone American in the field but fluked one American supporter when he ordered his eggs benedict for breakfast at the Chill 89 Café at Golden Beach.

Café boss Ken Ratcliffe, from Boston, became his one-man fan club on course.

Sunshine Coast hope Wools-Cobb will bid to be a rare home course winner of the Queensland Open just as Greg Norman was at Royal Queensland in 1983.

Comfort with being aggressive, familiarity and sure putting on these grainy greens will all be assets when the pressure builds in the final round.

He’ll also be having a crack at the driveable fourth hole which will be set up at around 235m for Sunday thrills.

“I’ve practiced that shot plenty of times. I’ll definitely be going for it,” Wools-Cobb said.

“Being a member at Pelican Waters definitely makes me feel like I’ll be comfortable with the pin positions, know where to leave myself uphill putts and that feel for being aggressive when I should be.

“Even when I hit a good drive I had mates in the crowd calling out ‘just go after it will ya’ so it’s nice to have the local support of friends and family.”

Defending champion Quayle (68-70-68) is within striking range at 10-under but he will be cursing not being at least a shot closer to the lead.

He hit a superb drive down the par five 17th but a poor chip and a missed putt left him with a tame par.

Tour veteran Scott Strange, 43, carded a fine seven-under 65 but the perfectionist was still calling his swing and putting “a work in progress.”

He holed a nine iron from 142m out for eagle on the par four sixth after an average drive to go with six birdies.

He’s played with plenty of gun amateurs over the years but was upbeat about the pro future one day for Australian Amateur champion Louis Dobbelaar, 19.

“Louis could step into it tomorrow...but don’t tell him that. I know he’ll handle it but he’ll do it in his own time,” Strange said.

Dobbelaar (73-68-66) hit all 18 greens in regulation and the best of his six birdies may have been getting up-and-down from the wet sand on the par five 17th. He is handily placed at nine-under, one behind amateur Lawry Flynn (68-69-69).

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