Both Adam Scott and Wade Ormsby have refused to rule two-time defending champion Cameron Smith out of a historic threepeat despite holding a handy buffer at the top of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
Smith will need to come from five shots back if he is to equal Dan Soutar’s 112-year-old record of three consecutive Australian PGA Championship titles after an even par 72 on Saturday highlighted by an eagle at the par-5 12th.
Cancelling out post Presidents Cup fatigue as a factor, Smith leant on his renowned short game to remain in contention at 5-under par and give both Scott and Ormsby cause to look over their shoulders.
“If I was four shots back, I’d be thinking 66,” was Scott’s summation, marvelling at Nick Flanagan’s morning round of 9-under 63, describing it as “an incredible round. It was really far from my thought process out there today.
“The leaders still have to play a hell of a round of golf to shoot 2 or 3-under, so he’s right in the mix.”
Ormsby sits just one shot behind Scott at 9-under par and four clear of Smith but he too is wary of the threat posed by a player with such an imposing record at the venue.
“Very capable. He knows what he’s doing around here,” Ormsby said.
“You have to go low tomorrow. Well, not low low, you just have to play well.
“You’re not going to go out there and shoot 1-under to win the golf tournament. You’re going to have to go a little bit deeper than that, but we’ll set a number and go and chase it in the morning.”
Given the exploits of Flanagan and Spain’s Alejandro Canizares early on Saturday, Smith knows that generating some roars in the groups ahead of the leaders courtesy of his Wantima Country Club disciples can apply pressure on those trying to protect their lead at the top.
“It’s the same everywhere basically, you kind of know what’s happening without even looking at leaderboards,” Smith said of the on-course noise.
“It seemed quite flat on that front nine today, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of cheers or anything like that, which is great for me. I mean, I was already behind.
“You can kind of sense what’s going on without knowing.
“That’s going to be the idea, try and get out with a bit of a hot start. Those first five or six holes, really the whole front nine, you can really get going if you’re hitting it good.
“Plenty of opportunities, plenty of wedges and the putts just need to go in.
“There’s opportunity there to apply some pressure, it just needs to turn on.
“Most of the boys from Wantima will be out here tomorrow, probably all the family that will be cheering me on. Hopefully we can take them back the trophy again.”
Although eager to make an early impression, Smith said he doesn’t need to attack the course in an overly aggressive manner in order to repeat his Friday frenzy where he rescued his tournament defence with a 7-under 65.
“I had 7-under yesterday with playing just my normal stuff,” said Smith.
“There’s no need to hit driver off every tee and go at every pin when you can quite easily shoot the number with just playing your game.
“Much of the same tomorrow. It just needs to be that one or two per cent better with the irons and then the putts just need to roll in.
“I had a few really good up-and-downs all day really. I could be standing here out of the tournament and it looks like I’m only going to be four or five back, which with a day like that, Christmas has come a bit early.”