MILWAUKEE (AP) — Greg Norman won’t be the only Australian trying for a win on Sunday.
Fellow countrymen Nick Flanagan and Gavin Coles are tied for the lead at 11 under entering the final round of the US Bank Championship, a tournament that Norman himself won in 1989.
And if Norman should go on to become the oldest major champion with a win in the British Open, Coles and Flanagan won’t feel overshadowed.
“That would be definitely OK with me. I’m playing in America because Greg Norman showed us that we could play here. Norman, back in the 90s, was the guy we all looked up to,” Coles said. “It’s going to be unbelievable and I hope he does it.”
Flanagan fired a third-round 69, rebounding from a bogey at the 17th by knocking a hybrid to within 12 feet on the 557-yard, par-5 finishing hole and making a tap-in birdie to reclaim a share of the lead after Coles shot 68.
“I thought I hit a perfect putt. I don’t know how it missed,” Flanagan said of his eagle chance.
Second-round co-leader Richard S. Johnson of Sweden, playing with Flanagan, also just missed an eagle putt at the 18th. But his tap-in birdie allowed him to finish at even-par 70, tied with Jon Mills (64), George McNeill (66) and Ken Duke (68) a stroke back of the leaders.
The low rounds came despite a drizzle that fell most of the day. Coles said the light rain was not a problem because there was no high wind.
“The weather was not a nuisance and the course was made for some birdies,” he said.
Five players were another shot back at 9 under, including defending champion Joe Ogilvie, whose 68 on Saturday puts him in position to win the tournament for the second straight year.
Kenny Perry, whose decision to play the tournament instead of the British Open was panned by players and the media, shot a third-round 69 to get to 6 under – too far back to have much of a chance at his fourth win this season.
“My goal was to get within three, and I had my chances,” said Perry, who won the John Deere Classic last week. “If I could have made a couple putts coming in and got within three, I would have had a shot at this deal. It will take a magical round tomorrow. I’d have to shoot 61 or some crazy number, and that ain’t happening right now.”
Flanagan, who was promoted after winning three tournaments on the Nationwide Tour, led at the turn despite a bogey on the par-4 ninth, when he missed a short putt. The bogey dropped him back to 10 under, the score he and Johnson had to share the lead after two rounds.
Flanagan still retained at least a share of the lead until he bogeyed the par-4 17th. His third shot from green-side rough barely got onto the green, and he missed a long putt for par to fall a shot behind Coles.
The 24-year-old tour rookie made up for his mistake on the 557-yard, par-5 finishing hole. After a good drive, Flanagan hit a hybrid to 12-feet and barely missed the eagle putt that would have given him sole possession of first place.
Johnson, the first-round leader, also missed a putt for eagle at the 18th. He had to settle for a birdie that kept him just a shot out of first place.
Coles, whose 62 Friday was the low round of the tournament, stumbled through bogeys on the first two holes to fall to 7 under. He rebounded with four birdies on the back nine, including back-to-back at 12 and 13, and his birdie at the par-4 16th got him to 11 under.
Mills, another former Nationwide Tour player, started on the back nine because he was so far behind the leaders when the day began. After making up a pair on his first nine, Mills shot 4-under 30 on the front side.
It took Mills a while to realize he was even in contention, because he had not bothered to look at the leader board.
“It wasn’t until the fifth hole (of his second nine) that I saw I was maybe one back,” he said. “I kept kind of pushing forward, because you know there’s a lot of birdies out there.”