Sunday shootout shaping at Aussie PGA

American Bobby Gates started the third round of the Australian PGA Championship with a one shot lead and following his one under par 71 that lead remains the same but his closest pursuers have changed.

New South Welshman Aaron Townsend and the 51 year old Queenslander Peter Senior are just one shot behind Gates with a further shot back to Japan's Akio Sadakata, Andre Stolz and yet another 51 year old, Peter Fowler.

To say the least those in contention are an eclectic mix but the likes of Steve Bowditch, Nick O'Hern, Gary Simpson and John Senden are just one shot further back and not only add to that mix but they are certainly not out of it.

On a day where the wind blew as strong as it had all week, when the greens were firmer and perhaps a little slower than they had been on the opening two days, the Hyatt Regency Coolum provided a demanding test.

The winner confirmed that this was a much tougher golf course today. "The wind today made it tougher than the first two days but I kind of ground it out today. I never got anything going but it is kind of the nature of the beast out here with this course. You are going to hit some bad shots and saving par sometimes is pretty good. We are still in the tournament and still have a chance tomorrow.

"The first five holes were pretty tough today. There were not many times that we looked up and the wind was doing the same thing as it was 30 seconds ago. That makes it tough when you are trying to hit a certain type of shot and when get over you realise that it is not even close to where you thought it was makes it tough but that's the fun of golf and you just grind through it.

"The greens were quite firm today and the wind dried them out further. With the amount of rain they had earlier in the week there has not been much watering of them."

Gates is a golfer who enjoys playing internationally. "I like coming down here. The people have been pretty awesome in complimenting me about coming down and are genuinely appreciative. To come down here and play here with the likes of Adam Scott, Robert Allenby and the Greg Normans is an honour. We see these guys up in the States and they come all the way to play with us so to have people appreciate us coming down is nice."

The PGA Tour of Australasia money list title is up for grabs tomorrow and a win by the American would see him take it out. That would earn him starts at the British Open and potentially the US Open dependant on his ranking at the time. It will also earn him starts in two or three World Golf Championship events.

If Gates was to win tomorrow he would be the first foreigner to win this significant Australian title since New Zealander Greg Turner's victory in 1999 and the first American to win it since Hale Irwin's victory in 1978. "Right now I am not thinking about that. The prestige and everything is great but until tomorrow and everything is done then I won't be thinking about it."

Senior has just completed his rookie season on the Champions Tour and was clearly delighted to be where he is on what had been a tough day.

"I struggled around the front nine. I hit a lot of loose shots. The wind was swirling a lot which made club selection a little difficult although I think all of us had trouble on the front nine. I started to hit a few decent shots on the backside however and holed a couple of good putts at the right time and all in all a 68 on a windy day around here today you have to be pretty happy. Coolum has been pretty good for me. I have either done really well or missed the cut but it has been good for me and having the family up here it has been pretty relaxing.

"This is the sort of course that suits me. There are a lot of short shots and it is just a matter of how many putts you hole. There are half a dozen holes you need to be really careful of and I have hit the shots that were required on those holes. It is a golf course that anyone can go out there and shoot a good score because it suits anybody.

"The PGA Championship is a week we all look forward to. I am just enjoying being in the hunt and playing some good golf."

Townsend has just arrived back from the Japan Tour School where he failed to make it to the final 36 holes. "This week has sort of come out of the blue. I played really poorly last week but I had not realised I was carrying an injury. My back was tight but I did not realise how bad I was. It has been amazing what a difference a little bit of treatment this week has made.

"This (a win tomorrow) could mean a lot for me. There is a lot on the line and could mean great things for next year and into the future. It will be an important day tomorrow.

"I have played here a lot but this is the most comfortable I have been with the golf course. It is the confidence I have at present of striking it well and knowing where it is going to go that is causing that.

31 year old Sadakata plays the Japan Golf Tour and although he has yet to win there he has put together the occasional good finish in the three seasons he has played that tour.
Andre Stolz is a former PGA Tour winner in Las Vegas and at his best he will be a chance in the race to the line tomorrow.

Peter Fowler is yet another 51 year old with a lengthy career highlighted by his Australian Open win in 1983. He made the turn in 32 today and at that point had the lead but three bogies in his next five holes threatened to derail his chances before a late rally has him now within two of the lead.

Tomorrow promises one of the more intriguing final days in the nine year history of this event being played at the Hyatt Regency Coolum.

There are so many storylines amongst the 16 players within 6 shots of the lead. Most of those players will go to bed tonight still believing they have a genuine chance to win.

We are promised yet another amazing final day shootout at the Hyatt Regency Coolum.

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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