The biggest roar didn’t come until the final hole and now Adam Scott hopes to harness that energy to win a second ISPS HANDA Australian Open at Victoria Golf Club on Sunday.
When Adrian Meronk matched Scott’s course record seven-under 63 the world No.56 pushed out to a two-stroke lead but Scott’s waiting game paid dividends late in his third round.
After starting his round with eight straight pars, Scott dropped a shot at the par-5 ninth before birdies at 12, 15 and a crowd-pleasing eagle at the par-5 18th for the second straight day edged him one shot ahead at 11-under.
Meronk (10-under) and Min Woo Lee (seven-under) will play with Scott in the final group as he seeks to add to his 2009 Australian Open triumph at New South Wales Golf Club in front of what he hopes will be a vocal home crowd.
Not since Scott’s glorious Masters homecoming in 2013 have Australian galleries swelled to the size witnessed on Saturday and the 42-year-old wants to bring them to their feet regularly in the final round.
“There’s a bit of noise out there. I think everyone’s having a good time,” said Scott.
“It’s great to see so many people coming out to the golf and I certainly have had incredible support, just going to the first tee.
“I’ve felt the love, so I’m looking forward to feeling it tomorrow. Hopefully I can play some really good golf and show them a win out there.”
If Scott is banking on the lion’s share of support from his fellow Australians, Meronk will look to a small band of Polish friends and family to add to his Irish Open victory in June and earn a second DP World Tour title.
Four-over through the first 13 holes of the tournament on Thursday, Meronk has made 16 birdies and an eagle in his past 37 holes.
Tied for 34th a week ago at the Australian PGA Championship in Brisbane, Meronk took time to adjust to the speed of the famed sandbelt greens but is now dialled in thanks in part to the comforts of home.
The cousins of Meronk’s girlfriend live within five minutes of Victoria Golf Club and the 29-year-old has been dining out on Polish meatballs and chicken schnitzel as he chases a second national open in six months.
“It feels like home, to be honest,” said Meronk of his accommodation for the week.
“It’s always nice to be coming back to the house, talking Polish, hang out instead of coming to the hotel, meeting in the lobby, go to restaurant.
“I’ve seen already at least 10, like random Polish people, so hopefully tomorrow there’ll be more.
“If you’re listening, just come and support and then have fun.”
A self-confessed show-off, West Australian Min Woo Lee will also relish the enormous gallery that will envelope the final group.
Starting his third round from the 10th tee, Lee had four birdies and holed a bunker shot for eagle at 18 to go out in five-under and get within a shot of the lead.
Two birdies and a double-bogey at the par-3 fourth saw Lee sign for a five-under 65 and kept alive the possibility of a brother-sister Australian Open double on Sunday.
“If we had these crowds every week, I would probably play a bit better,” said Lee, whose sister Minjee is sixth and seven shots back of Jiyai Shin in the Women’s Australian Open.
“I wasn’t even that close to the lead early on and we still had hundreds of people come watch.
“They’re here to watch me and I’m not here to snap clubs. I’m here to play good golf in front of them, so that’s what I’m trying to do.
“Hopefully my score follows that.”
Joint leader with Scott at the start of the day, Victorian David Micheluzzi burst out of the blocks with birdies at both of his opening two holes.
Two bogeys before the turn and a double bogey at the par-4 17th would see the 26-year-old sign for a three-over 73 and a share of seventh, six shots off the lead.
Cameron Smith had to put a stop to his off-season celebrations when he snuck inside the cut-line on Friday but was unable to deliver the birdies he needed to advance to Sunday’s final round.
The enormous gallery that gathered had their hopes raised with birdies at 13 and 18 but that’s where his push ended, dropping a shot at the par-4 third in a round of one-under 69 to miss the top-30-and-ties second cut by two strokes.
Although the cut-line moved to two-under just after 4pm it ultimately settled at one-under, 37 players advancing to the final round.
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