Allenby leads congested PGA field

Robert Allenby today holed a ten foot putt at the final hole to edge ahead of Greg Chalmers and Scott Strange after 54 holes of the Australian PGA Championship at Hyatt Regency Coolum.

At 9 under, Allenby is poised to win his fourth Australian PGA Championship, four years after his third win that coming in 2005 when winning the Australian Masters, the PGA and the Open in the same season. Allenby's two other Australian PGA Championship victories came at Royal Queensland immediately before the event was moved to Coolum in 2002.

27 players however are within six shots of the lead and all must consider themselves a chance at least of taking the title. It might require a round of 8 or 9 under for those at 3 under to have that chance but Han Min Kyu's opening round of 62 on Thursday suggested that such was not out of the question. As has become the norm on the final day of the Australian PGA Championship, tomorrow promises to be a birdie fest with an intriguing and tight battle for the title.

Six days ago Allenby won the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and has been particularly impressive in the manner in which he has followed up such a significant win. "I think it could have been a little better - even today," said Allenby.

"My only real hiccup was on 3rd, just a poor tee shot then a little bit of the Leyland brothers there for  little bit. Then on 12 I hit a beautiful 4 iron to the middle of the green and three putted. The greens were a little sticky today, a bit grainy perhaps after the rain we had."

"I am playing well. Last week was a good week for me. Even though there were not many in the field there they are always good players. I am hitting the ball well and my short game is getting better so that is what is helping me."  

Chalmers has been in fine form in the past eight months or so, gaining his status for the 2009 PGA Tour via the Nationwide Tour in 2008 and then consolidating his position by easily retaining his status this year. He continued that form when runner up to Tiger Woods at Kingston Heath a month ago and has an opportunity to add the Australian PGA title to the Australian Open and Australian Players Championship he won early in his career.

"I payed nicely on the front nine, said Chalmers. "I made birdies on the key holes, the 5th and 6th. I shot myself in the foot at the 11th when I chipped it in the water but overall I am happy to be where I am. The greens were softer today - even the opening few new holes. The leader-board looks like a who's who of Australian golf and you will need to go low tomorrow." 

Strange birdied the final hole to join Chalmers in the lead and has created the opportunity to produce the sort of form he has displayed internationally. Strange won the Wales Open in 2008 and the Volvo China this season and is one of Australia's most credentialed players in recent years. Victory this week would confirm such to local fans and he has the chance to do just that tomorrow.

The congestion in the leader-board heading into day three always suggested that a player some way off the lead might make a big move today. That person would be Michael Sim. Sim finished well last week at the Australian Open and is about to complete what is his best year in golf. With a PGA Tour card and a record breaking year on the Nationwide Tour to his name, a win here would further confirm his rising start in Australian golf.

Sim's round of 65 was made even better by the fact that he recovered from two early bogeys. Sim birdied eight out of eleven holes between the 7th and 17th to finish with 65 and at 7 under he is just two back and tied for 4th.   

"I have struggled on those new holes all week," said Sim. "I doubled the second on Thursday and had two more bogeys today. The holes are open and it is hard to get used to them quickly."

"I was still 2 over after six then hit a good wedge at the 7th, birdied the 9th and then just started flying from there. Early on the front nine I was beating my head in a little. It just wasn't going to plan and it then came out of nowhere, great to be on top," (which was where he was when interviewed). 

Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy are also at 7 under with Sim while John Senden and Marc Leishman are at 7 under, highlighting the quality of the leader-board. Seven of the leading eight are PGA Tour players, the other (Strange) our most credentialed player in Europe in the past two years.

Given the quality of those near the top it would seem the winner must come from those at 4 under or better and more likely those at 6 under.

One man who must be pleased with the outcome to date must be Robert Trent Jones Jr, the designer of the original layout and the man responsible for the six new holes at Hyatt Regency Coolum. His new layout has created a mouth watering prospect of many quality players vying for one of Australia's most significant titles tomorrow.

Bruce Young
About The Author : Bruce Young

A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of and background in the game of golf comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

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