Gates leads by three in NZ Open

Nationwide Tour rookie, Robert Gates, leads the Michael Hill New Zealand Open after an impressive third round of 67 left him three shots ahead of his playing partner for the day, Australian Andrew Dodt. That the 24 year old was playing in just his first Nationwide Tour event made Gates' performance even more impressive than it was on the leaderboard.

Gates was rock solid all day but it was his run of four consecutive birdies in the middle of his back nine that would separate him from the field. Birdies at the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th moved him four clear of his nearest pursuer Dodt and although Dodt clawed one back at the dangerous 16th, Gates enjoys a comfortable margin heading into tomorrow's final round.

Gates is philosophical about tomorrow and his chances. "My goal tomorrow is to stay in the moment and not get outcome focused. Everybody here has earned the right to be here and all are good players but like I said and although it is always said this game is about playing one shot at a time and that's what I will be trying to do tomorrow and if it is good enough then so be it."

Both Dodt and Gates bogeyed the final hole, the most difficult on the Nationwide Tour in 2009 and allowed their chasers at least a faint hope.

Recent WA Open Champion, Michael Curtain, birdied four of his first five holes to move to 11 under and at that point had moved within two of the lead. He ends the third round alone in third position and five behind the leader.

Matthew Griffin, Kevin Chappell and the experienced Mark Hensby are at 9 under and within 7 of the lead and while the margin is substantial it is not insurmountable. Much will be dependent on just how the leader handles the giddy heights he faces tomorrow.

Hensby's round of 66 was the best of the day and the 2005 John Deere Classic winner and former Presidents Cup player is on track to return to the form he displayed in 2004 and 2005. "It was hard to take being back at Tour School having played Presidents Cup and having won out there. It was a funny feeling going through that but I am focused on getting back to the PGA Tour."

Tomorrow Gates looks to become the 13th player to win at his first start on the Nationwide Tour and based on what we have seen to date this week it would be a brave man to best against such.

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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