China’s Yunhe ‘Sampson’ Zheng produced one of the greatest-ever rounds at Royal Melbourne Golf Club as a howling northerly wind wreaked havoc in the third round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
Using creativity and three-quarter swings to counter the firmness of the greens and constant winds, Zheng posted a new amateur course record of six-under 65 on Royal Melbourne’s Composite course. It bettered the long-standing mark set in 1968 by five-time British Amateur champion Sir Michael Bonallack who passed away last month.
Starting the day six strokes from the lead, Zheng now leads by four shots at three-under 210. His closest pursuer is Queenslander Billy Dowling (73) who is outright second. New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori (74) and China’s Wenyi Ding (76) are five back. Australians Max Charles (71) and Jasper Stubbs (74) are six behind in a tie for fifth while Jeffrey Guan (74) is eight back.
Zheng, 22, who plays out of the University of California, is nicely poised to collect invitations to next year’s Masters Tournament and The Open that are awarded to the Asia-Pacific winner. On a day when breaking par was a remarkable achievement on one of the world’s most demanding courses, Zheng had six birdies, an eagle (No.10) and just two bogeys.
China’s Yanhan Zhou (69) was the only other player to break 70 while there were just four sub-par rounds. With the day’s scoring average almost 76.5 strokes, Zheng’s gained 11.5 strokes on the field.
Commentator and former Presidents Cup player Frank Nobilo said he doubted whether he’s ever seen a round as good in these conditions: “The quality of shot-making was just a different level today.”
Such was the difficulty that Zheng’s round compares favourably with the 12-under 60 by South African Ernie Els in the opening round of the 2004 Heineken Classic. That benign summer’s day on the Sandbelt was conducive to good scoring as Michael Campbell shot 64 while there were four scores of 65 and five rounds of 66.
Understandably, Zheng was pleased with his performance: “To be able to shoot 65 like I did in the condition like this today where everyone else is not having the best, it feels even more special.
“I’ve played in similar conditions but nothing like this. This is the toughest condition I’ve ever played in for sure. I think I just got the best of the golf course today. The golf course is still a beast. The second shots are rolling like 20, 30 yards when it’s downwind. Even on the tee box, I see my ball wobbling sometimes. There’s a lot of wind, and it’s playing really tough.
“One thing I did really well was adjusting to how the golf course changed, into the wind, downwind, how much the ball is going to roll and where the miss is, where is the uphill putts and just basic stuff like that kept my round going.”