It’s the position he has craved throughout 2019 and now Adam Scott can end a winless streak stretching back more than three years by holding off a chasing pack at the Australian PGA Championship on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
Two late birdies at 16 and 18 propelled Scott from out of the throng of players clamoring for position to assume sole ownership of the lead at 10-under going into the final round, long-time friend Wade Ormsby (9-under) and Nick Flanagan (8-under) to share the final group spotlight.
Flanagan only just made the cut thanks to a birdie late in his second but equalled the course record with a scintillating round of 9-under 63, he and Alejandro Canizares making light work of benign conditions early on Saturday that became gradually more difficult as the day progressed.
Midway through the third round five players enjoyed a share of the lead but the likes of Nick Cullen, Anthony Quayle and China’s Yuan Yechun dropped back just as Scott was making his move.
The 39-year-old has recorded 21 top-10 finishes since his last victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March 2016 and expects to have to fight until the 72nd hole if he is to claim the Joe Kirkwood Cup for a second time.
“It’s incredibly bunched, and if it’s windy tomorrow it’s going to be hard for anyone to really separate themselves unless they just play an incredible round of golf, go out there and roll in a lot of putts,” said Scott, 17 players sitting within five shots of the leader.
“For me, my strategy’s going to be the same.
“Unless I hole a lot of long putts, I don’t see myself just running away with this thing. I’m in for a fight.
“It would be nice to cap off this year with a win here 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 the Masters time.”
Ormsby is yet to claim one of Australia’s major events having finished runner-up at Royal Pines five years ago and third at the Australian PGA at Coolum in 2006.
For the second time this week Ormsby navigated his way around the Graham Marsh layout without dropping a shot on his way to a 2-under 70 and expects that another mistake-free round will give him the opportunity to avenge his loss to Scott at the South Australian Junior at Royal Adelaide more than 25 years ago.
“It’s hard to kind of get out in front and go, but I guess any course, if you hit enough good shots and hole enough putts, you can get going,” said Ormsby.
“You need to putt well in order to do that, but you’ve still got to play the golf course on its merits.
“There’s going to be some tricky flags tomorrow and there’ll be some gettable ones, so I’ll just keep plodding my way around and play the same type of golf I’ve been playing and see where that leaves me.
“I want to play in the last group, especially when it’s so bunched. It’s nice to be right at the end there where you feel like you’ve got not control, but you know what you have to do.”
Kiwi Michael Hendry shot a 2-under par round of 70 which was most notable for a rib injury that caused significant discomfort over the closing five holes.
On three separate occasions Hendry’s left hand came free of the club due to the pain and he admitted that even sitting two shots back of Scott the injury may prevent him from teeing it up at all on Sunday.
“I’ve had a little bit of physio during the course of the week, but it hasn’t really been an issue until today,” Hendry said.
“I’ll go and see the physios now and hopefully they can figure out a plan of attack to make sure it’s OK for tomorrow.
“It’s a little bit painful at the top of the swing and I’ve just got to man up and hit the shot and hopefully it won’t hurt too much, but it’s pretty tricky.
“I am a little (concerned I won’t be fit to play) but I’m pretty confident in the guys’ ability.
“If I can just get myself out there and warm up to the point where I can swing the club, even if I hit a few one-handed shots, so be it.”
Hendry will play alongside Yuan and West Australian Min Woo Lee in the second-to-last group with two-time defending champion Cameron Smith five shots back of Scott at 5-under.