Matt Jones yesterday shot a three-under 68 to hold a three-stroke advantage over a surging Jordan Spieth after the third round of the Australian Open.
Defending champion Spieth holed out with his shot from the fairway on the par-four 17th for an eagle, then had a tap-in birdie on 18 for a 67.
With gusty winds again affecting play on the Australian Golf Club course where Jones is a member, the US-based Australian had a 54-hole total of 10-under 203.
Australian Rhein Gibson was in third after a 68, five behind Jones.
Adam Scott rebounded from a 73 on Friday to shoot 68, including an eagle on the 18th. He is tied for seventh, nine strokes behind, as is European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, who shot 70.
There were only nine golfers under par. The course has been tough, with only 18 players under par after the first round and 12 after the second.
Spieth had a roller-coaster of a front nine in which he bogeyed three of his first four holes and birdied the next two before finishing the front nine with a bogey and a birdie — just two pars going out.
“I made a couple of bad swings and a couple of bad decisions,” Spieth said. “Not many pars.”
Spieth settled down initially on the back nine and had two birdies on 12 and 14 with a 10-foot par save on the 13th. The fireworks came with his shot on the 17th — an eight-iron from 181 yards which hit the front edge of the green and rolled straight toward the flag, gently nudging the pin before falling straight down into the hole.
The 22-year-old American threw his hands in the air, high-fived his caddie, Michael Greller, then gave him a light punch in the chest.
“I struck it nicely, there’s not too much room to land it up there,” Spieth said. “It’s two extra shots that you don’t expect. Great fightback, one of the best-fought rounds I’ve had that I can remember.”
Last year, Spieth shot a final-round 63 — a record on the revamped course designed by Jack Nicklaus — to win by six strokes.
Jones provided some late theatrics of his own, putting from well off the green on the 17th to hole it for a birdie.
“One more to go, and I get to play with the No. 1 player in the world,” Jones said of his final-round pairing with Spieth in the 100th Australian Open. “It will be a lot of fun. If I go out and shoot two or three-under tomorrow, I’m going to be very tough to beat. So it’s in my hands. If he shoots something amazing like last year and beats me, that’s what I’ll have to deal with.”
Scott ended a birdie drought not with his troublesome putter, but by chipping in from just off the green on the third hole. It came after he failed to make a birdie in his Friday round, and Scott said he could not recall the last time that had happened.
“It was hard going out there today, windy, the pins were tucked, but I made some putts,” Scott said. “It was a little bit of everything, but it all added up.”
Scott, who was also nine strokes behind after the second round, said he still felt he has a chance to win today, which would be his second Australian Open title after winning in 2009.
Scott, who has not won this year, has a streak of winning at least one tournament every year since 2001.
Jones and Spieth said they would do their best today to make sure Scott is not about at the end.
Taiwan amateur Yu Chun-an carded a one-over-par 72, while fellow Taiwanese Pan Cheng-tsung recorded a two-over-par 73. Both golfers recorded a total of three-over 216. The third Taiwanese participant, Liu Yen-hung, was cut from play.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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