Scott up for fight to end title drought
Perth prodigy Min Woo Lee is relishing a Sunday trophy tilt at imposing leader Adam Scott when Australian golf's future meets it pumping heart on the Gold Coast.
The aggressive 21-year-old will be re-christened "Win Woo Lee" should he play boldly enough to dethrone calm front-runner Scott for the Australian PGA at Royal Pines.
Scott (70-67-69) was treading water behind five co-leaders mid-round before he hit the accelerator with a stellar finish to jump ahead by a stroke.
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A perfect seven-iron struck 155m to a metre produced just the third birdie of the day at the tough closing hole and the crowd erupted appropriately in the greenside marquees.
The 2013 Masters champion triggered an even bigger roar at the party hole when his ball did a lap of honour around the cup before a tricky swinging birdie putt dropped for the sun-kissed drinkers at the par-three 16th.
Scott is the class at the top but he's taking nothing for granted in his quest to break a three-year title drought.
"I see myself in for a fight because I don't see anyone running away with this," said Scott, after reaching 10-under-par.
This is bigger than just the PGA because a winner's confidence is what Scott wants most of all to nourish his run towards Augusta in April.
"It would be nice to cap off this year with a win at home because I know what the confidence of that can do going into next year and just kind of make things a little more comfortable running into Masters time," Scott said.
Scott's long-time mate Wade Ormsby (68-69-70) is a stroke behind and right in the hunt with his patient game. Nick Flanagan, with his brilliant course record-equalling 63, played the only other bogey-free round.
Scott didn't dare rule out two-time champion Cameron Smith, even from five shots behind after a disappointing 72, because Greg Chalmers up and beat both Scott and Ormsby in the 2014 play-off after a closing 64.
Lee (68-72-68) is in a four-strong posse at eight-under, and 17 birdies this week shows his score power when Scott has 11 to go with his two eagles on the par five 15th.
The 21-year-old has impressed everyone at Royal Pines and you can't go past Thursday's approval from American playing partner Stewart Cink: "It would be an exciting time to be Min Woo Lee."
If the first-year pro were to upset Scott in a late Sunday duel it would almost rival Aaron Baddeley, as a teenage amateur, toppling Greg Norman for the Australian Open at Royal Sydney 20 years ago.
Lee went birdie-birdie on the toughest corner of the course at the 13th and 14th, when he holed a shot from the sand downhill and downwind, so the kid can sure play.
His future would be transformed by a win because he missed out on the European Tour card this title does carry as a prize.
"My game was probably eight-out-of-10 (on Saturday) as one of my best ball-striking rounds all year so hopefully there's one more on Sunday,' Lee said.
He's excited to be in the mix with Scott and a quality leading bunch, although third-placed Kiwi Michael Hendry may struggle to repeat his gutsy 70 with his rib injury.
"It's very cool. Of course, I'm trying to win so it would be nice to finish it off," Lee said.
"I'm learning about myself, too. I'm a pretty fiery player but I'm trying to minimise that a little bit because what you see now is better than a couple of years ago," he said with a smile.
Smith still in the hunt
Defending Australian PGA champion Cameron Smith says "Christmas has come a bit early" as life was breathed back into his bid for a third-consecutive Joe Kirkwood Cup.
Smith enters Sunday's final round five shots behind fellow Queenslander and Presidents Cup teammate Adam Scott after shooting a frustrating even-par 72 to be five-under for the tournament.
A stunning eagle on the par-five 12th and two bogeys were mixed in with 15 pars in tricky conditions at RACV Royal Pines in stark contrast to his seven-birdie blitz on Friday to catapult himself into contention.
But with the leaders failing to kick away and Smith scrambling to save pars all day, he is still well and truly in the hunt.
"I could be standing here out of the tournament and it looks like I'm only going to be four or five back. With a day like that, Christmas has come a bit early I think,'' Smith said. "I had a few really good up-and-downs on that back nine, had a few really good up-and-downs all day.
"I just felt a little bit uncomfortable with my longer stuff and then combine that with a bit of a wind and some tricky pins … it was just one of those days where you couldn't quite get it. In gusty conditions like that, you need to be spot on.''
Smith said he will need to go low to give Scott and the leading groups a fright with a "hot start" on the front nine essential to his hopes. He also expects a large contingent from the Wantima Country Club in Brisbane's north to be cheering him on.
"Four or five back, it's got to be at least seven or eight (under), I would think. But you never know,'' he said. "Apply the pressure early and golf is a funny game. You can go one way or the other quite quickly.
"I was behind the first year I won so I can kind of draw from that. Rather than one bloke ahead of me, I've got 10 or however many it is but I am going to have to do some hard work.
"Those first five or six holes, really the whole front nine, you can really get going if you hit it good. There's opportunities there to apply some pressure.
"There's no need to hit driver off every tee and go at every pin when you can quite easily shoot the number just playing your game.''
The Gold Coast's Anthony Quayle slid down the leaderboard with a three-over 75 to be five-under for the tournament but has not given up hope.
"Adam (Scott) is a world class player so I'm assuming he is going to go out and play pretty nicely. I expected the leaders to probably get to 12 or 13 (under) today. The leaders didn't really get away which has let a lot of people back into the tournament,'' he said.
"I didn't play that badly for most of the day. I couldn't get a whole lot going and at the end got a little bit tired and made a few mistakes. I've had a few pretty low Sundays this year and if I can do that tomorrow I might go close.''