Tom Power Horan has already secured DP World Tour playing rights for next season and is battling through an endurance test of 11 tournaments in 12 weeks, but he is far from done.
The Melburnian shot a brilliant 6-under-par 66 at the Moonah course today to seize the lead in The National Tournament presented by BMW as the ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia season draws to a close.
Starting out three shots back from midway leader Elvis Smylie, Royal Melbourne’s Power Horan had a hot streak going birdie-birdie-eagle from the seventh to jump into the lead as Smylie tread water.
At one point he led by three shots, but the Moonah course with a southerly breeze presents challenges, especially on the closing stretch, and bogeys at the 16th (from the fairway trap) and 17th (from long and left of the green) brought the Victorian back to the field.
Closing out with a par at the 18th he posted 14-under overall following rounds of 68-68 on Thursday and Friday, and his lead is a shot from Sydney’s John Lyras at 13-under.
In a bunched leaderboard 20-year-old wunderkind Smylie (71 today) and Murwillumbah professional Lucas Higgins, who threatened the course record and ultimately posted 64, are next in line at 12-under and well in contention.
Power Horan, 30, has had his best-ever season having switched across to the coaching of the South Carolina-based Australian Brad Hughes, winning the Gippsland Super 6 and picking up one of the three playing cards offered for the DP World Tour in 2023-24 as a top-three finisher in the Order of Merit.
He has worked hard for it, missing just one week of tournament play in the past three months, and he looks forward to a break next week before he heads over to the Asian Tour for the middle part of the year.
But he is not complaining in the slightest. “It’s been good,” he said. “I played great which makes it a lot easier, and I actually feel pretty good.
“I’m a bit more relaxed this week. It’s the last event and there’s not as much on the line for me.
There’s not as much pressure, and it’s been great staying with the boys and pretty low key.”
Smylie began with a two-shot lead in the afternoon and struck the ball nicely early, but his frustration grew as chances went begging on the greens, and by the end he was scrambling for pars with gutsy saves at the 14th and 18th mixed with bogeys at 14 and 16 and a bomb for birdie at the par-3 17th that drew a fist pump from the young Gold Coast professional.
Both Smylie and Lyras are chasing their first wins on tour, the Sydneysider making a nice eagle at the par-5 second hole with driver-wedge and a two-metre putt, then hanging tough on the back nine to put himself in the mix again.
The 26-year-old Lyras can jump into the top-five on the Order of Merit with a win this week, which would give him significant exemptions at overseas tour schools; similarly Smylie has a lot to play for other than the obvious carrot of a win and $36,000 prizemoney.
The surprise packed of the day was 23-year-old New South Welshman Higgins, who is playing for his tour card this week, currently 63rd and needing to get inside the top 50 to retain his rights.
He made two eagles and five birdies for the day including a remarkable birdie from close range at 10 after he feared he had lost his ball in deep rough.
“I’ve been playing average on the weekends, so it’s kind of nice to finally put a good round together and give myself a chance tomorrow,” said Higgins.
As for Power Horan, equation is simple in his eyes.
“There’s money on the line, and I like to win,” he said. It would be a great way to finish the season.”
Sunday’s final round will be televised live from noon by Fox Sports, Kayo Sports and Spark (NZ).