A BLISTERING putting display by tour rookie Daniel Popovic sees him take a two shot lead into the final day of the 2012 Australian PGA Championship.
Many expected him to falter under the weekend pressure, but the 26 year old Victorian held his nerve to shoot a three-under 69 at the Palmer Coolum Resort on the Queensland Sunshine Coast on Saturday.
Playing in the final threesome alongside major winner and former champion Geoff Ogilvy and China’s Zhang Xin Jun, Popovic has the lead for the third straight day and sits at 13-under.
Popovic made a bright start with two birdies on his first three holes to lead by three strokes before stumbling with bogeys at the par-five fifth and par-three eighth.
He bounced back with a birdie at nine to reclaim a share of the lead and mixed one bogey with three birdies in his final six holes to sit two shots clear of fellow Victorian Anthony Brown.
“I felt brilliant, first tee I was a bit nervous but I absolutely crunched my three iron down the fairway and just went on from there,” said Popovic.
“It does surprise me in a way that I did handle it so well today without sort of having my A game, but I am going to walk away from here thinking this can be done tomorrow and I’m going to give it a fair crack.”
“This thing right here has saved me at least three or four strokes a round and it’s never going to leave my side,” added Popovic of his putter.
Continuing on his learning curve, Popovic was glowing in his praise of Geoff Ogilvy who is fast becoming the younger Professional’s role model.
“I learnt so much again today playing with Geoff, he missed a hell of a lot of putts out there and at one stage he didn’t sort of bang his putter in the ground, didn’t let it overcome him. He really kept calm out there”
“What I learnt of him today was he was in a great position to win this tournament and he didn’t play his A game but he still shot an OK round, he’s not nearly out of this tournament at all.”
Tomorrow will be a pinnacle moment for the Popovic family who will watch from Victoria as Daniel tries to close out the tournament.
“It’s going to be an incredible ride for the whole family I think, tomorrow for myself, my mum and my dad is going to be huge.”
A regular on Tour since 2005, unheralded Anthony Brown has found form at just the right time.
“It hasn’t been the best year this year for me; I have been playing a lot better the last couple of months so I knew there was a good one in me,” said Brown.
“I guess I didn’t really have any expectations at the start of the day but whenever you shoot 64 in any tournament let alone the Aussie PGA you’ll take it, so I’m very happy.
Brown and Popovic will play the final round with Peter Senior, who in 2003 was the last player to win the Australian PGA Championship after leading wire-to-wire.
Senior, last week’s Australian Open winner, and Matthew Griffin are on 10-under in third place while at 9-under sit Open runner-up Brendan Jones, Rod Pampling, Brad Kennedy and Mathew Goggin.
A further shot back Ogilvy, Stephen Dartnall, Robert Allenby, and Zhang Xinjun round out the top 10.
The final round will get underway at 8.56am at the Palmer Coolum Resort with the leaders out at 11.03am. Ten’s live television coverage is scheduled from 12 – 5pm (AEST).2012 Australian PGA Championship Leaderboared Australian PGA Championship Tee Times