Two of Jed Morgan’s closest challengers have expressed their intent to pile on the pressure on day three of the Fortinet Australian PGA Championship.
Morgan’s eight-under par round of 63 on his home course of Royal Queensland Golf Club saw him post 14-under at the halfway mark, the lowest 36-hole total to par in the Australian PGA Championship since Peter Senior’s 15-under at Coolum in 2003.
His lead was seven strokes when he holed out on the ninth hole to complete his second round, Andrew Dodt (66) reducing the deficit by one with a late birdie at the par-3 17th, Louis Dobbelaar (71) and Aaron Pike (70) a shot further back at seven-under.
Min Woo Lee birdied two of his final holes to be four-under and tied for eighth but all of those south of Morgan on the leaderboard know they will need some help to reel him in.
As a member of Royal Queensland the setting won’t faze Morgan as he seeks to make his first professional victory one of great significance, Dodt pointing to the occasion itself as the question mark that will hang over the tournament front-runner.
“I get that he won the Aussie Amateur and it’s his home course but he hasn’t been in this situation before. We’ll see how he holds up tomorrow,” said Dodt, who will go head-to-head with Morgan on Saturday, the pair hailing from Gatton and Hatton Vale respectively 70 minutes west of Brisbane.
“His mindset will be completely different if he’s one-over through four or two-over through five from what it was today.
“It will be interesting to see how it handles it but the old cliche is true, I’ve got to worry about myself first and foremost.
“Obviously I’m a fair way back so got to keep the foot down.”
The 2020 Northern Territory PGA champion, Pike also knows the Royal Queensland layout well. He was hoping for a last-group pairing with Morgan to see how the rookie copes with the pressure.
That pressure will now have to come from the group ahead, Pike emphasising the enormity of the occasion the 22-year-old now finds himself in the centre of.
“He knows this place unbelievably well, so if one of us can put some pressure on him somehow then it stops being him just having a game at his golf club. All of a sudden he’s leading the Australian PGA,” said Pike, who shot to prominence by leading the 2006 Australian Masters as an amateur.
“That’s a big deal. It doesn’t matter who you are. You’re leading your national PGA Championship. It only takes him to just be slightly off, have an even-par round and one of us just have something in the mid-60s and all of a sudden it’s game on again.
“But at the end of the day I can’t control what he does. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try and light it up.
“That’s all I can do. If that’s good enough come Sunday, then that’s good enough.”
A two-time winner on the DP World Tour, Dodt finished second to American Harold Varner III at the 2016 Australian PGA at Royal Pines and won the 2014 Queensland Open.
Now living in Newcastle – and announced on the first tee the first two days as a New South Welshman – Dodt will also have his share of family and friends in the gallery on Saturday.
And he has a caddie in Tom Davis that will help quell any advantage Morgan may enjoy playing on his home course.
Davis is the son of player manager Ian and was an accomplished junior golfer in his ow right, his knowledge of Royal Queensland helping Dodt to navigate his way towards the top of the leaderboard.
“To have these little insights – don’t hit it there, hit it there, pitch it here and it will run out there – he’s just awesome,” said Dodt.
“It’s great having those insights from the middle of the fairway.”
Korean Chang Gi Lee and another RQ member in Jake McLeod both shot 67 on Friday to move into a share of fifth with Victorian David Micheluzzi (69) at five-under, Lee (70), Jack Thompson (70), Michael Wright (72) and Daniel Gale (70) tied for eighth at four-under.