Wood overcomes putting woes to retain top spot at PNG Open - PGA of Australia

Wood overcomes putting woes to retain top spot at PNG Open

A frustrating day with the flatstick wasn’t enough to stop Queensland’s Chris Wood from maintaining his spot on top of the leaderboard heading into the final round of the PNG Open at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club, reports Jimmy Emanuel.

The 36-hole leader is at 10-under through 54 holes, one clear of South Australian Lachlan Barker (70) with West Australian Ryan Peake (72) the next best at six-under.

Wood (71) got off to a slow start on Saturday with bogey at the second giving his pursuers hope by reducing his two-shot overnight lead to just one. He rediscovered his birdie form at the fourth and sixth holes, only to give back another shot at par-4 seventh.

A drive left on the eighth eventually led to a par five that he bettered by one at the ninth after reaching the par-5 green in two. That birdie lifted Wood to 10-under and two shots clear of Barker, whose own birdie putt slid just by to close the front nine.

As clouds rolled in and rain threatened, Wood went on a seven-hole par streak, but despite the suggestion of his scorecard, the 2021 Vic PGA winner believed he was in fact playing better golf than over the first 36 holes.

“I actually played better today than the first two days, I just didn’t hole any putts,” the 32-year-old said.

“I think I had seven birdie opportunities on the back nine from no more than 12-15 feet and missed them all, apart from one.

“So it was frustrating on the back nine.”

The one birdie he did manage came at the 381-metre par-4 17th hole where he followed in Peake, who chipped in for a birdie of his own, Barker having to be content with par.

Twice finishing in the top-five at this event, Wood knows that patience will be key on Sunday as he chases a second ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia title.

“I don’t have a number in mind for tomorrow, I am just going to keep doing what I’m doing,” he added. “Hopefully the putts will drop in, but we’ll see.”

Looking to secure a first Tour win, South Australian Barker was buoyant after a round of 70 that could have been better with his lip-shaving birdie putt at the penultimate hole mirrored almost exactly at the par-3 18th.

“Happy with my round in the end,” said Barker.

“Didn’t really have anything going early, but it was a very stable round of golf today. One bogey, a few birdies, but I felt very in control.

“I gave myself opportunities; unfortunately they didn’t go in. But I have that to look forward to tomorrow, the opportunity to go low and chase down Chris which will be fun.”

Despite a multiple shot buffer from the chasing pack, the pair know that birdies are on offer at Royal Port Moresby.

One of the players to find those birdies on Saturday was Queensland’s Blake Proverbs, who recorded a six-under 66 to sit in a six-way tie for fourth at five-under.

Meanwhile the man to last win the trophy, Peter Cooke did not tee off in the third round after signing for an incorrect scorecard on Friday and being subsequently disqualified.

With an eye on taking Cooke’s title as PNG Open champion tomorrow, Wood had an understandable plan after toiling in the heat and humidity.

“Air con, that’s it,” he said of his Saturday evening plans. “Air con and a feed.”

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