Smith, Leishman goes for epic confrontation

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by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia

Twelve months ago, Marc Leishman waited around to share in Cameron Smith's victory; this time he wants to be the one who throws the Australian PGA Championship party.

The two highest ranked players in the field have opened a seven-shot lead over the rest with defending champion Smith who holds a triple buffer over his closest friend and closest rival.

On a day when few challengers emerged from the peloton, Smith compiled a bogey-free 5-under par-round of 67, the equal best score of the third round, to take a tranglehold of the trophy he still always in his possession.

The Joe Kirkwood Cup is a silver piece to which Leishman desperately craves, but he will have to produce something extraordinary to chase it away from a young man who is about to become the best male golfer in Australia.

Using the lessons he learned from playing with Leishman at the World Championship a week ago, Smith studied his way around the RACV Royal Pines layout without incident and recorded birdies on the fifth, ninth, twelfth, thirteenth and sixteenth holes

Even his & # 39; bad & # 39; shots resulted in little birds when Leishman went through a frustrating day with the putter and did not make a bird until the eighth hole of the day before he finally signed for a 3-under-69.

Bound for the third four shots behind Leishman are 2016 champion Harold Varner III and ACT veteran Matthew Millar, who, along with Smith and Braden Becker 67s, posted the likes of Jake McLeod (75), Dimitrios Papadatos (74) and Matt Jager (73 ) fell back into the package.

Because he is aware of the task that awaits him to pursue Smith, Leishman says that he is recalling previous & # 39; come-from-behind & # 39; victories on the PGA Tour to put some pressure on and Smith to the test.

"I have to start pretty well, not as in the first two or three holes, but the first nine," said Leishman.

"I must have a good first nine, let him at least think about it.

"It is difficult to win from the front, it is also difficult to win from behind, it is difficult to win anywhere.

"I just have to do what I can do, worry that I try to score a good score and see if he plays well or not.

"I expect him, so I think I need a very good score.

"I've come from behind, so hopefully I can do it again tomorrow."

Gerrit shows an adulthood in his game that conceals his appearance. Smith has made exactly the only bogey since he finished his opening round with falling shots in each of his last two holes

He was content to have those who submitted the chase, to make the mistakes through carelessness or over-aggressiveness, and shows no signs of a lead that he had at least partially since the beginning of the second round.

"That's the position you want to be every week, you want to play against the best players in the world and & # 39; Leish & # 39; is one of those guys," Smith said about his last confrontation with Leishman in the group

"I am looking forward to a good fight tomorrow with Leish.

"I'm just going to try to go there tomorrow and do what I've done.

"The last few days was probably the best wave I have ever played and I feel really confident.

"I just look forward to tomorrow."

Although he will start the final round seven shots on Smith's base, Varner has not given up hope of putting his own pressure, his third round of 1-under-71 with three straight birdies from holes 8-10 and an expensive double bogey on the par-5 15th

"You have to keep giving yourself chances, you can not stop," said Varner, who is not worse off than the sixth place in three previous visits to Royal Pines.

"That's just the MO, you have to do that.

"The past year has helped me a lot, because I just had a bad posture and I think I was 5 or 6-under-10 and that I just made him angry.

"You just can not do that.

"I still love my chances.

"I have to give myself only 18 looks and I think something good is going to happen."

The final story until the last race of Sunday is the race to the top of the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour or Australasia Order of Merit.

Despite a disappointing third round that ended with three straight bogeys, Jake McLeod remains in pole position to demand that the one-year European Tour exemption and World Golf Championships starts with Dimitrios Papadatos and Anthony Quayle who must win the tournament to take over the top position .

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