Morgan motoring towards Australian PGA immortality

Morgan motoring towards Australian PGA immortality

Coach Grant Field had a simple message as his young charge prepared to sleep on a six-stroke lead at the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship on Friday night: Just do you.

Aussie golf fans with memories that stretch back more than 25 years will know six-shot leads can evaporate as quickly as a desert mirage and the question on rookie Jed Morgan on Saturday was whether the temperament would match the talent.

The 2020 Australian Amateur champion at Royal Queensland Golf Club, Morgan played his way into the final group on Saturday at the Vic Open just a few weeks later. He shot 74 that day on his way to a tie for seventh but two years later there were no signs of nerves.

Instead there were fist pumps, finger raises and rev-ups for the gallery that swelled around him, a birdie at the par-3 17th party hole bringing the 22-year-old just as much joy as those in the lively corporate marquee as he shot 65 for a 20-under par total.

Morgan can erase a host of records of the past and plot his own future if he does what he intends to do on Sunday and extends his nine-shot 54-hole lead even further.

The record score in relation to par in the Australian PGA Championship is 22-under (Nick O’Hern and Peter Lonard, 2006) and the record winning margin is eight strokes, a mark set three times by two men with five major championships between them (Hale Irwin 1978, Greg Norman 1984-85).

Whether he wins by one or a dozen, a victory would see Morgan collect the Joe Kirkwood Cup, $180,000 in prize money, status for three years on the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia, starts in three DP World Tour events this year and all but guarantee one of three DP World Tour cards to be handed out at the completion of the Australasian summer.

And to do so his theory is simply to carry on doing what’s worked so well the first three days.

“It’s nice but anything happens in golf, so it doesn’t change a thing,” Morgan said of his enormous 54-hole lead.

“It doesn’t really move me one way or the other, it just makes me kind of win by more if I can.

“It helps obviously but just going to try and do the same thing as I’ve done, because it’s obviously working.”

Work is not something that Morgan shies away from.

During a stint in the US last year he pitched in with the likes of Jack Thompson and Louis Dobbelaar on a working bee to clean out the backyard of WPGA Championship contender Sarah Jane Smith.

They moved tonnes of green rubbish yet Morgan approached it in much the same manner as he did solidifying a tournament lead on Saturday.

“Oh my goodness, I’ve never seen anyone work so hard and enjoy it,” Smith explained.

“They were throwing palm trees and laughing, they were having a great time.”

Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy spent the first two days watching Morgan at close range.

Given the manner of his eight-under par course record 63 on Friday Ogilvy likened Morgan’s arrival to that of a 21-year-old Greg Norman at the West Lakes Classic in Adelaide in 1976.

Like Norman that week, Morgan is playing in just his fourth event as a professional and can effectively play his way onto the DP World Tour by leaving RQ with the Joe Kirkwood Cup.

He battled through the heat and harnessed the support of the crowd as energy levels waned, a failure to get up-and-down from the front-left bunker on 18 his lone bogey of the day and first since the 13th hole on Thursday.

It might have slightly soured the taste of the Saturday night steak but won’t detract from his focus to complete a remarkable first professional win.

“I had no idea this could happen,” conceded Morgan, whose family used to run the 10-hole Hatton Vale Golf Course and Fairways Tavern.

“Three rounds are done, one more to go and the job will be finished.”