Sydney, November 19: A resurgent Geoff Ogilvy from Australia is on track for a second Emirates Australian Open title after a sensational third-round eight-under-par 64 at Royal Sydney today gave him a two-shot lead.
But the leaderboard is packed with international and Australian talent and a breathtaking finish to the 101st Open looms tomorrow.
Ogilvy (11 under) will play in the final group with his fellow Victorian and Arizona neighbour Aaron Baddeley, the 1999 Open champion tomorrow, Baddeley finishing at -9 after a 67.
Right in the mix is world No.5 Jordan Spieth from the United States, who carded a 68 to move into position at nine-under, tied second and in a similar position to that of 2014 when he smashed The Australian with a closing 63 to win.
New Zealand Ryan Fox (71 today) also is tied second, seeking to become the first Kiwi to win the Australian Open, but even the likes of Rod Pampling (-8 after a 70) and Adam Scott (-7 after a 71) are not without a chance.
It is a mouth-watering leaderboard.
But Ogilvy, one of Australia's most accomplished players with three World Golf Championships to go with his US Open triumph at
Winged Foot 10 years ago, sits comfortably at the top again.
In tricky winds, he began by hitting it close and making birdie, adding another at the par-five second, and four consecutive birdies from the sixth sent him through the front nine in 30.
The leaders were going nowhere and by the time he reached the par-five 16th he had a share of top spot, and he hit a beautiful long iron shot to the green and two putted for a birdie to take the outright lead.
But he saved his best for Royal Sydney’s iconic 18th hole. Wedging from 120m, Ogilvy almost holed out with a shot that fed off the little ridge behind the flag and trickled back toward the cup. A tap-in birdie gave him a 64.
"To be honest, I didn't really see 64 on the first tee,'' he said. "But after going out so well on the front nine, I kind of started seeing a score like that, so it was nice.''
Something has clicked for Ogilvy recently, after he needed to activate a career-earnings exemption to play the current season on the US PGA Tour. "It's just getting out of my head and not thinking about it too much,'' he said. "Just rolling the ball like I used to.
It's been coming. I'm not shocked that they all went in, it's just pleasant.''
The Victorian was number three in the world at his peak and one of the best wedge players on the planet. But in his late-30s, he hit a lull from which he might just emerge tomorrow.
"It's been a frustrating period, not through lack of effort,'' he said. "Probably it's been more effort that's made it harder, you know what I mean? Golf is such a fine line, you try harder and it usually doesn't work, but then you play worse, so you try harder again.''
Perth's Min Woo Lee is the leading amateur at six-under, showing great composure under pressure in his first Open, but Sydney's
Travis Smyth is just one shot back in the race for that prize after Curtis Luck fired a flat 74 today to sit a further shot back.
Tomorrow, the top three players who have not already qualified for the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 2017 will win spots for that major. Ogilvy, Aaron Baddeley and Fox are at the head of that list.