They call it “moving day”, a hoary old cliché used to indicate the third-round mindset of: the cut’s been made, now let’s get into contention. Save for Jamie Arnold’s 64 that pushed him from the cutline to contention, for much of the day there was about as much leaderboard movement on the third lap of the Emirates Australian Open as there is in a Sydney traffic jam.
Midpoint leader Matt Jones still leads courtesy of a three-under 68 but his lead has grown from one stroke overnight to now three. Nearest pursuers after 36 holes Paul Casey and Louis Oosthuizen continue to lurk. American Cameron Tringale and exciting Kiwi prospect Denzel Ieremia remain in the mix, just as they did this time last night. Aside from Jones, the raft of contenders beginning the day near the lead carded something on or near par during a blustery third round.
Which isn’t to say the day’s play wasn’t entertaining and eye-opening. Dimi Papadatos suffered two of the worst breaks imaginable in the space of four holes. At the par-4 ninth, his slightly errant drive ricocheted off a spectator and into the lake that never used to be a factor off the ninth tee but now apparently is. A double-bogey ensued.
Off a fan’s dome piece and into the drink. Brutal break for Dimitrios Papadatos at the Aussie Open pic.twitter.com/LGTG0Q5Hcm
— Christopher Powers (@CPowers14) December 7, 2019
Then at the 12th hole, the New South Welshman never found his tee shot after it hurtled into the pine trees right of the fairway and the ball was not seen again. The result: another double. The 2018 runner-up found some much-deserved birdies but rinsed his second shot at the last to finish with a 75.
Earlier, Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya, the co-leader after the first round, thought his birdie putt on the 15th green would topple in. His ball hung on the right lip for a moment, during which Kanaya turned away in disbelief. His only clue that it had in fact dropped was the roar of the crowd:
When you think you’ve missed a birdie chance by a centimetre but it’s good 🙌⛳️
— PGA of Australia (@PGAofAustralia) December 7, 2019
Jones was the lone member of the leading groups to find anything resembling acceleration. After a birdie-less front nine of 36, he found a spark with four birdies in the first seven holes on the inward nine. Yet a bogey at the 17th quelled that momentum before a closing birdie. The 39-year-old remains in the box seat for a second Open title in five stagings.
Arnold was one of few players to get out of neutral on Saturday. Teeing off in the fourth group of the day, his eight-birdie 64 was four strokes lower than any other round carded. He finished before the leading trio teed off, drawing to within two strokes of Jones’ lead. Arnold could be forgiven for expecting he would still be well behind at the close of play, yet the reality is he’ll start the last round a more manageable five back.
There’ll be an armada of his colleagues hoping to find that same spark on Sunday.