Kiwi Ryan Fox hasn’t discounted making a Sunday tilt at the title but concedes either Marc Leishman or Cameron Smith are capable of taking a stranglehold of the Joe Kirkwood Cup in the third round of the Australian PGA Championship.
A bogey on the par-4 18th hole soured what was an otherwise impressive round of 3-under 69 from Fox who compiled one of the better morning rounds in what were again perfect conditions.
West Australian Braden Becker was the major mover on Saturday morning, an eagle and two birdies in his final seven holes rocketing him up into a tie for sixth with a 5-under par round of 67.
Four birdies in the space of seven holes around the turn also launched Canberra veteran Matthew Millar up into a tie for sixth, the 42-year-old continuing his great week after being named ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia Player of the Year at the Greg Norman Medal on Tuesday night.
A birdie at the first hole saw Jake McLeod join Cameron Smith on top of the leaderboard but as the wind strengthened Fox believed that only two players were likely to gap the field heading into the final round.
“If the breeze gets up like it’s supposed to, I think it will be quite tricky out there,” said Fox, who was tied for 23rd as he completed his round.
“I wouldn’t expect anyone to run away with it other than maybe ‘Leish’ (Marc Leishman) or ‘Smithy’ (Cameron Smith).
“If one of those guys gets going, obviously they’re world class players and you can see them even in tricky conditions shooting 4 or 5-under and getting a decent gap on the rest of the field.
“As you’ve seen with the scoring the last couple of days, if you shoot anything under par, it’s actually a pretty decent score out there.
“There’s still a low one out there, but it just seems to be a little trickier this year for some reason.”
One of the longest hitters in world golf, Fox got off to a flyer with birdies at the first and third holes but a bounce off the cart path at the par-4 seventh saw him drop a shot, a shot he earned back at the par-5 9th hole.
Birdies at 11 and 13 propelled him further up the leaderboard but he admitted that he has had to temper somewhat his normally aggressive approach.
“I think if you’re on, you can all-out attack it,” Fox said.
“I’ve been fighting my swing a little bit the last couple of weeks. There are some places you can hit it around here that are really ugly. I managed to find a couple of them over the last couple days.
“So taking a slightly more conservative strategy than I probably normally would and that’s on me fighting mainly the lefts, to be honest.
“There are a few holes where there’s some trouble left, so I laid back off the tee and tried to keep it in play that way.
“But if you’re on and feeling good, you can definitely take the golf course on.”