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Lee Battles, Hawkes Soars On Blustery Vic Open Saturday

Minjee Lee came back to the field on day three of the Vic Open (Photo: Paul Shire)
If sport was scripted Minjee Lee would be embarking on a coronation at the Vic Open tomorrow.

But it isn’t, and she isn’t, and after a breezy Saturday at the 13th Beach complex the highest world ranked player in the field has a fight on her hands to claim a second Vic Open title.

The attention at the dual men’s and women’s events will be predominantly focussed on the women’s tournament and Lee’s play but in the men’s event there is an equally fascinating finish brewing.

Nine players are within four shots of the lead held by virtual unknown Simon Hawkes of Tasmania whose 8-under 64 matched the record at the Beach Course and catapulted him to the top of the standings.

Former Fiji International winner Steven Jeffress is just one behind Hawkes with rookie professional Harrison Endycott and 2017 PNG Open winner Cory Crawford at 8-under.

Nick Flanagan and Ash Hall are among those at 7-under with Australian PGA runner-up Jordan Zunic looming large at 6-under and alone in ninth.

Simon Hawkes blistered the 13th Beach Beach Course with an 8-under 64 (PHOTO: Paul Shire)

While a dog fight is expected at the top of the men’s leaderboard Lee has just three players within four shots of her lead though among that number are former champion and resident at the course, Marianne Skarpnord.

Rookie professional Karis Davidson is outright second at 6-under though it is fellow West Australian Hannah Green Lee will likely expect the main challenge to come from.

Green trails by three after a 2-under 71 and after playing her to the LPGA Tour with a brilliant 2017 season on the secondary Futures Tour, including three wins, will be keen to grab her first title on home soil.

The 21-year-old had a disrupted flight to make it from the Bahamas to Barwon Heads and was sloppy over the opening two rounds but despite starting the day seven shots behind never felt she was out of it.

“I know that on this course you can easily make one mistake - hit a great shot - and be in a terrible position,” she said of her mindset.

“So I knew there was a lot of golf left and there’s still 18 holes left, if you think about it.

“There’s plenty to be played and hopefully I can keep fighting.”

For Lee the day began badly with her first bogey of the week at the first and continued to be a struggle as wind and firm greens combined to make the course tough.

Four bogeys against two bogeys ultimately added up to a 2-over 75 though the World Number 20 wasn’t too rattled when she spoke to the press after her round.

“The wind was blowing a little bit different today so a little bit tougher conditions,” She said.

“And obviously the wind was really strong so it was a grind out there.

“I think  some of the pin placements - the wind was blowing away from the pins so it was a little tougher to get to the pins.”

After putting beautifully over the opening two days Lee had some frustration on the greens but said overall she felt she had played well.

“At the start I lipped out a few and obviously the last hole but in the middle I saved a few so half and half today,” she said.

“The wind is crazy out there and obviously you want to play well but you have to stay patient as well and take whatever it gives you.”

Rookie professional Karis Davison was the surprise packet of the day with a mind boggling 67 in the afternoon conditions.

Only she and American Cheyenne Woods broke 70 on day three, the Scottish born Queensland resident unsure what to expect in tomorrow’s final round.

“This is my first four-day professional event but I’m not feeling any pressure,” she said.

I’m just going to go out tomorrow and do my best and try to have fun.

“I had a really good round today but I didn’t expect to be one off the lead. My goal was to be top 20 so…”

Davidson will tee off alongside Green and Lee at 1.40 tomorrow while Cory Crawford, Steven Jeffress and men’s leader Simon Hawkes are in the group ahead at 11.30.

SIGNATURE HOLES - 15TH AT BARNBOUGLE DUNES:

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