by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia
The champion tensed his muscle, but the contenders are in line for a chance at the title after a dramatic second day of the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort.
A birdie-blitz on the front-9 put title-defender Cameron Smith in position to improve the record of Jordan Zunic from 64 set 12 months earlier, but it was an adult show of restraint with which he could shoot 7-under-65 and a one-handed took the lead in the third round on Saturday.
Smith's former Queensland junior team-mate, Jake McLeod, seemed destined to take the lead on the half-way lead when he made a six foot pike for the eagle on the par-5 12th but an idiosyncratic tee shot on his penultimate hole. deemed from bounds saw him defeat a shot behind Smith and finish with Marc Leishman on 8-under par.
The second defender of Australia, Dimitrios Papadatos, is one blow ahead and fourth as co-leader of Round 1, Matt Jager and Queenslander Christopher Wood, who showed up late on the leaderboard with a sublime 6-under 66 driven by four birdies on the front -9 and three more on the back.
International guests Harold Varner III and Andrew & Beef & # 39; Johnston delights the grand galleries of the Gold Coast with spectacular openings on the par-4 8th and par-3 16th respectively, Johnston lifted the roof of the Volkswagen Marquee with its chip from the left of the 16th green.
But while the overseas raiders and his teammate Leishman are preparing for their attack, the current holder of the Joe Kirkwood Cup is the one best placed to be victorious on Sunday
"I had no idea about the course of the course, to be honest, I was just trying to do my best," Smith said.
"I decided I wanted to get 10 (bottom), which was a sort of goal for the end of Friday, so one out, not bad.
"7-under, you can never complain about 7-under."
While Leishman, Papadatos, McLeod, and Varner all experienced problems with the easiest hole on the track by being aggressive, Smith tempted his hot hand early with a sensible selection of his interior.
Refusing to be tempted by pleated pins on 13, 14 and 16 in particular, Smith avoided all disasters and showed the type of price management that makes him a rising star in world golf.
"Yesterday I almost got involved with those last two holes," Smith said about his bogey-bogey finish on Thursday.
"It's very easy if you're playing well to get in. They're not a shot long and you know you can hit them, but if you miss it on the wrong side, you're all done.
"I reminded myself that 10-15 feet to the right of the flag pin is probably the best photo you can make, and if you hit it, you've taken a bad picture."
When he played in the group behind Smith, Leishman could hear the roar in the early morning when the local favorite relieved Royal Pines, but after successive rounds of 68 he is convinced that his experience will count for a lot when the intensity rises.
"A lot of golf to play and the course only gets heavier," Leishman said about his position by 36 holes.
"It starts to speed up, and that's good, the sun is out, it's warm, it's going to dry it even more.
"Hopefully we all play well and we fight it out, and I would like to be there at the end and hopefully in the front.
"There is still a lot to be done, it is only halfway done.
"I do not want to be too far for myself, but as long as I play well and feel good on the greens, more importantly, what's good."
Given that he almost three holes in the tournament Thursday, that Johnston the cut in itself was already an achievement, the popular Englishman is now a legitimate player who leaves only four shots behind.
"I'm just going to try to keep doing what I do, just try to keep my emotions out and yes, just play around and play golf," said Johnston, who made back-to-back birdies at the age of 15. and 16 to end the day at 5-under.
"Just try to keep that feeling that I have, just play and see what happens, man.
"I was glad it was worked out yesterday, I managed to bring it to the range this morning and the swing felt better.
"No destructive photo's and we managed to keep a score together."