GOLD COAST, Australia (AP) — Andrew Dodt held the lead for the third straight round at the Australian PGA Championship on Saturday, hanging onto a two-stroke cushion after Adam Scott started fast but faded and Harold Varner III scrapped on the front nine and finished strongly.
Dodt had five birdies and three bogeys as he went around in 70 on Saturday, moving to 14 under 202.
A two-time winner on the European Tour, Dodt finds himself on rare ground going into the last round.
“My wins have been from behind, so this is new to me,” he said. “I’m really trying to embrace it and enjoy my time out there.
“The first three rounds are irrelevant now. There are a lot of world- class players behind me, so I’ve got to keep the foot down.”
Varner started the day five shots off the pace and narrowed the gap to two, moving into a share of second spot at 12 under with Australian Ashley Hall after carding a 67 that included eagles at the 15th to the 17th and a clutch putt for a bogey at the 18th. Hall had two eagles and twice pulled level for the lead, but bogeys on the last two holes meant he finished with a 70.
Varner, who was a runner-up here last year after losing a three-way playoff, had eight straight pars before a birdie at the 9th. He had another birdie at the par-5 12th and then unleashed a 364-meter drive (which he needed Scott to translate to 400 yards) on the 15th to set up an eagle. He had double-bogey at that same hold – plus the 16th – on Friday, so the big tee shot was a confidence boost.
At the 17th, he holed a wedge from 114 meters and had a mini celebration. On the last, with thunder in the background and lightning in the distance, he hit into a bunker and put his third shot left of the green. So, he said, the putt for bogey “was awesome.”
“I hit it left, right and center,” he said, explaining the damage limitation. “Good momentum going into tomorrow, I’m super excited …. set up best as I’m going to be without leading.”
Former No.1-ranked Scott, who won the Australian PGA Championship in 2013, the same year he won the Masters, finished the third round in a share of fourth with John Senden after a 70. Scott had birdies at the 2nd and 8th and an eagle at the 9th to charge up the leaderboard but was wayward off the tee on the back nine, twice finding the water, and mixing three bogeys with another birdie to finish at 10 under.
“I’m going to have to shoot a low score, but there’s a low one out there, that’s for sure,” Scott said of the last round. “I have to go out and have a good front nine and kind of get up near the lead like I did today. If I can do that, then there’s a lot of pressure on the other guys who are trying to get maybe their first wins here of a big event.”
Ryan Fox slipped off the pace with three bogeys on his first five holes and was seven shots off the pace at 7 under in sixth place.