Sunday Tasmanian - - Sport -

CAMERON Smith is on track to join some of the greats of Aussie golf as a back-to-back win­ner of the Aus­tralian PGA af­ter yes­ter­day out­du­el­ing close friend Marc Leish­man.

The Queens­land favourite will have his home-state fans roar­ing him to the tro­phy mo­ment af­ter shoot­ing an un­ruf­fled 67 to Leish­man’s 69 at Royal Pines on the Gold Coast.

Not since Robert Al­lenby’s dou­ble at Royal Queens­land (2000-01) has a golfer re­tained the Joe Kirk­wood Cup.

Icon Greg Nor­man (1984-85), Ran­dall Vines (1972-73), Kel Na­gle (1958-59) and Nor­man Von Nida (1950-51) were among the few oth­ers to achieve it.

Smith (70-65-67) will take a three-shot lead over his World Cup part­ner into to­day’s fi­nal round when they will pair up Cameron Smith (AUS) 70 65 67. Marc Leish­man (AUS) 68 68 69. Matthew Mil­lar (AUS) 72 70 67, Harold Varner III (USA) 69 69 71.

Matt Jager (AUS) 66 71 73, Ben Ec­cles (AUS) 70 71 69, Braden Becker (AUS) 70 73 67.

Nick Flana­gan (AUS) 69 73 69, Jake McLeod (AUS) 66 70 75, Dim­itrios Pa­padatos (AUS) 67 70 74, Mathew Gog­gin (AUS) 68 72 71, Jae-Woong Eom (KOR) 67 74 70.

Aaron Cock­er­ill (CAN) 72 69 71, David McKen­zie (AUS) 73 69 70, Matt Stieger (AUS) 74 69 69, again in a dream fi­nal group for or­gan­is­ers.

Leish­man had set the scene for the friendly shootout when he said pre-round, with Smith be­side him, that: “I don’t think An­drew John­ston (ENG) 70 69 73, Troy Mer­ritt (USA) 71 71 70, Rhein Gib­son (AUS) 72 70 70, Nick Tay­lor (CAN) 74 68 70.

Sam Brazel (AUS) 70 71 72, Craig Ross (SCO) 71 72 70, Har­ri­son Endy­cott (AUS) 70 72 71, Christo­pher Wood (AUS) 71 66 76, Ryan Fox (NZL) 69 75 69, Tom Mur­ray (ENG) 69 73 71, Robert Al­lenby (AUS) 70 70 73, Peter Se­nior (AUS) 72 70 71, Daniel Fox (AUS) 73 69 71, Dar­ren Beck (AUS) 73 71 69, Tim Ste­wart (AUS) 70 74 69, Daniel Gale (AUS) 70 74 69. we can play each other’s ball like last week [in World Cup four­somes].”

It re­ally is a race in two be­cause the “Jake the Giantkiller” script that looked poss- ible early fiz­zled out. Jake McLeod grabbed a birdie on the open­ing hole from close range to briefly join Smith in the lead but three costly bo­geys to fin­ish his 75 left him nine strokes off the pace by the end of the day.

Smith per­formed su­perbly with five birdies and not a bo­gey blem­ish to reach 14un­der on a day where tricky winds caused prob­lems for all the other top con­tenders.

Leish­man (68-68-69) was ragged mid-round just as he was last year when his 74 killed his fron­trun­ning po­si­tion and Smith caught up seven shots.

Yes­ter­day was never as dra­matic when he lost ground by two shots but Leish­man took eight holes to grab his first birdie.

Just when there was a hint of mo­men­tum, he was forced to chip out from be­hind a tree on the ninth and pitch out side­ways from a bunker on the 11th, ei­ther side of an­other neat birdie on the 10th.

He birdied all four of the par fives on Thurs­day and only one yes­ter­day when mo­men­tum for a charge was al­ways go­ing to come on those holes.

All the while, Smith was as serene as you like. He was un­happy with his ap­proach to the 13th green but he sunk the putt any­way to lead by three shots for the first time.

There is more theatre to Smith’s game now he is a gen­uine star and, when he ri­fled a shot to within a me­tre of the pin on the party hole 16th, the fans erupted in the mar­quee and on the deck chairs on the ar­ti­fi­cial beach.

He knocked that in for his fifth birdie of the day. hand to Le Fon­dre’s fierce spot kick, but could only tip it into the roof of the net.

Be­fore the goal, Le Fon­dre, who has scored six goals in as many A-League games, had one shot blocked and an­other at­tempt from the English­man had Mariners goal­keeper Ben Kennedy scram­bling across his goal.

The home team had two chances in the first 25 sec­onds, with Con­nor Pain’s shot blocked by Grant and a fol­lowup at­tempt blocked by Sky Blues goal­keeper An­drew Redmayne.

Early on, the Sky Blues looked un­set­tled by the Mariners pace out wide and ro­bust ap­proach.

Vic­tory 4 (Keisuke Honda 11m, Raul Baena 31m, Kosta Bar­barouses 39m pen, Terry An­to­nis 83m) beat West­ern Syd­ney Wan­der­ers 0 at Mel­bourne’s Mar­vel Sta­dium in front of a crowd of 19,556.

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