An eagle on the 14th hole enables England’s Justin Rose to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the MasterCard Australian Masters at Huntingdale.
In what Rose describes as his ’shot of the year’, the Englishman hit a long-iron approach to within inches on the par-five 14th, setting up his advantage over Raphael Jacquelin, Greg Chalmers and Aaron Pike.
Rose had been steady until his eagle, accounting for an early bogey with birdies on three of the par-fives – the sixth, seventh and 10th holes.
A late bogey at 17 – a hole he dropped a shot on during Thursday’s opening round of 69 – gave the chasing pack hope.
Frenchman Jacquelin carded a 67 in the cool, overcast conditions to be 11 under par, while Western Australian Chalmers signed for a 68.
Fellow Australian Pike – the overnight leader who was seeking to become the youngest-ever and only amateur to win the gold jacket – started his round poorly.
The 21-year-old entered day three at 11-under with a two-stroke lead, making a double-bogey at the first following a wayward drive, before bogeying at the second.
Playing partner Rose later paid credit to the Northern Territorian, who won the 2005 Queensland Amateur championship.
Rose said: “He putted confidently (today) and could have been a couple better, but it was a great way for him to finish.”
World number 15 and tournament wildcard Paul Casey carded a 67 to be a further three shots back at eight-under.
The Englishman was joined on that score by 1997 and 2002 champion Peter Lonard (69) and Spaniard Carl Suneson (69).
Casey said he travelled to Australia for a relaxing time, and considers it a bonus that he is in contention heading into the final round on Sunday.
The Ryder Cup player said after his round: “The first two days were very slack.
“On the first day, the brain was not really in gear, I trundled through the second round and made the cut, then for some reason today it caught fire there in the middle of the round.
“I am going to try very hard tomorrow and see what happens. If I play like I did today it will be enjoyable, and hopefully put me near the top.”
Rose has different views on his trip to Australia, the 26-year-old keen to use a good performance – and potential victory – in this event as a springboard for bigger things.
He explained: “I certainly came in motivated to do well, relatively fresh still. I sit here 69th in the world and I can’t be complacent.
“It’s much easier when you are 15th in the world to look forward to the end of the season. For me it’s an opportunity to move up higher in the world rankings and take another step in the right direction.”
Casey had a rollercoaster ride after opening his third round with a birdie.
He bogeyed the short par-four second and the tough par-three fifth – the day’s statistically hardest hole so far.
But he bounced back by eagling the sixth when he knocked a three-iron to 12 feet and converted, before birdies at nine, 10 and 11 moved him into striking distance of the lead.
He then birdied 13 and 14, however, a late bogey at 17 when a poor swing on his approach shot resulted in his ball winding up in a devilish greenside trap, checked his charge.
Australian Marcus Fraser fired a brilliant 66 – the low round of the day – to be in a pack of seven players – including former champions Peter Senior (68), Craig Parry (9) and Richard Green (68) – at seven under.
Defending champion Robert Allenby was up to six under overall after four holes, but dropped a couple of shots en route to being four-under, the same score as Englishman Graeme Storm (68) and Irishman Damien McGrane (69).
New Zealander Michael Campbell did not make the halfway cut, the 2005 US Open champion managing rounds of only 74-73 on the opening days.