THE trek to Florida for one last roll of the dice for 10 Australians to play on the 2017 Web.com Tour already seems a lost opportunity for all but four.
With one round of the 72-hole final qualifying tournament to be played over two courses at Orange County National, Sydney’s Jamie Arnold (T21) is the only Aussie in the top 45.
And if he can remain there he will gain an exemption for the early portion of the 2017 Web.com Tour.
But it’s been a disappointing campaign for the Australians this week, at one stage during Saturday’s third round even Arnold looking like going out backwards from the upper echelon the 156-man field.
After recovering from a bogey start at the par-71 Panther Lake layout, Arnold made two birdies on the fourth and sixth – both par threes – to get his round back on track.
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But he wobbled badly with a triple bogey seven at the seventh and staggered through the front nine in 2-over 37.
He steadied with a birdie at 10 before immediately giving the shot back at 11.
However, Arnold showed grit by fighting back with birdies at 13 and 18 to finish even par for the day.
He still slipped eight places from where he stood at the halfway mark, but in the end it was a good result to hold his nerve after his roller-coaster front nine.
Mark Hensby and Jordan Zunic are T70, with Hensby moving up 14 spots after shooting even par 72 at the Crooked Cat layout. Zunic’s 2-over 73 at Panther Lake saw him slide 15 places.
Zunic and Hensby could climb into the all-important top 45 with bold showings on Sunday, both capable of shooting a low round to vault back into contention.
Damon Stephenson was another Aussie to make a positive move in the third round, advancing 17 places to T85 after shooting even par at Crooked Cat. He is in with a chance come Sunday, too.
The hopes of the rest of the Australians in Orlando seem forlorn.
Steve Allan and Nick Flanagan are T101, Allan dropping 61 spots after a 5-over 76 at Panther Lake and Flanagan having 74 at Crooked Cat.
Oliver Goss (74) is T116, Max McCardle (74) is T132, Aron Price (76) is T141 and Nick Cullen (75) is T145.
Meanwhile, American Dan Wolton and Argentina’s Puma Dominguez both shot 1-under 70 at Panther Lake to open up a three-shot lead over the rest of the field.
South Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee and Americans Ken Looper, Jim Renner and Brock Mackenzie shared the third line going into the final round.
The winner gains a full card on the Web.com Tour next year, the top 45 earning less than full status.
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