03 Feb 2024 | Vic Open | Professional golf |
#VicOpen: McBride, Voke lead while Martin lurks
by Paul Munnings
Two players seeking their first win on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia have a one-shot lead over a home club favourite heading into the final day of the Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Links.
New Zealand’s Nick Voke (68) and Queenslander Kade McBride (66) sit at 13-under-par after 54 holes of the Beach and Creek courses, with Andrew Martin lurking at -12 after a nine-shot turnaround in just 24 hours produced a 65 on day three.
Although he isn’t in top spot ahead of teeing off on Sunday afternoon, with the experience gained from two Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia victories, and a wealth of home course knowledge, the resident of nearby Ocean Grove looms as the player to beat.
“It’s always handy to have local knowledge on a few things and I think that’s what made me comfortable today,” Martin said.
“I’ve only been here three years but I’m here most days when I’m not away for a tournament.
“Me and the boys – (fellow Tour pros) Josh Younger and Jack Murdoch – if we’re home, we’ll play most Wednesday and Saturday comps and my brother is here as well.
“It’s one of the joys of coming down to the Coast from Melbourne and having this sort of lifestyle.”
Voke and McBride have yet to win on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia, but have gone close before, the Kiwi tying for second at the Queensland PGA in October and McBride finishing runner-up in the NSW Open to David Micheluzzi last March.
“I got out of the gates quickly which is always nice. I hit the ball exceptionally well on the front nine and just had to stay patient on the back nine,” McBride said.
“The course is obviously going to get more difficult tomorrow. The greens are fast and really hard now so I think you just have to take your chances when you get them.
“A win would be awesome.”
Starting the day with a one-shot lead, Voke slipped up with a bogey on the second but that was his only dropped shot of a round that featured five birdies.
Like Martin, PGA Champions member and former Vic Open champion Richard Green, Victorians Ben Wharton and Brett Coletta and NSW’s Jordan Zunic all shot 65s to make big leaderboard moves on day three.
Coletta and Zunic sit at 11-under, with Green and Wharton two shots further back.
Back in his own bed, a pitching wedge from the 13th Beach layout, before heading back to the United States soon for his second year on the most lucrative seniors tour in the world, Green’s day was kickstarted by an eagle on the par-5 second hole.
“This is a great lead-up for the rest of the year for me,” said the 52-year-old who beat his own expectations by finishing 12th on the Charles Schwab Cup standings in his rookie PGA Champions campaign.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I got over there how well I played and how competitive I was against guys like Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington. I was hovering around them most of the time and contending.”
After anticipating the leading score would eventually get to 15-under by the end of the day, Green is better placed than he expected for a Sunday challenge for a second Vic Open title.
For Zunic, his 65 was the continuation of a good run of form which saw him progress through back-to-back weeks of the Asian Tour Qualifying School to secure his card for 2024.
“I was pretty tired when I got back from Thailand and then played at Rosebud last week so I’ve been trying to manage my energy levels,” Zunic said.
“I’ve just been doing what I’ve had to and hopefully will get a week off soon.
“I’m trying to enjoy myself, not too much pressure on myself which is what we’re all trying to do.
“It’s nice to have a round like this one to build my confidence a little bit.”
Coletta, another of the previous winners on the Challenger PGA Tour of Australasia at the top of the leaderboard, has had his sights firmly on gaining one of the DP World Tour cards on offer to the top three finishers on the end-of-season Order of Merit.
With five top-15s this season, he came into this week ranked 20th but could climb as high as No.3 with a victory tomorrow afternoon.
“The goal is to win the actual whole thing (the Order of Merit) and I’m going alright at the moment,” Coletta said.
“A win out here is paramount really with the double points that are available. There’s such a premium on our majors like this one.”
Wharton’s charge up the leaderboard actually started late in the second round when he had four birdies on his second nine on the Creek Course to make the cut by just two shots.
“It was nice to hole a few putts. It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
“I seem to hit every green in regulation every time I play and walk off with 34 putts.
“It’s been nice today to see a few go in.”
The leading groups will tee off between 1pm and 1.45pm tomorrow.
The only place to watch the Vic Open live is on Fox Sports, available on Foxtel and Kayo. Vic Open coverage starts at 3pm (AEDST).
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