A course record by Blake Collyer and continued consistency of Matt Millar and Andrew Evans shapes to disrupt Hannah Green’s shot at history at the TPS Murray River at Cobram Barooga Golf Club.
The four finished the third round level at 15-under par, Green’s three-putt from the back fringe of the 18th green for a round of two-under 69 setting up an enthralling – and potentially history-making – final day on Sunday.
Travelling 90 minutes to and from his home in Albury this week, Zach Murray (66) finds himself just one back in outright fifth position with New Zealand’s Momoka Kobori (68) outright sixth at 13-under.
Grace Kim also flirted with the course record before posting seven-under 64 to be tied with Douglas Klein (67) at 12-under, Aaron Wilkin (67), Nathan Barbieri (68), Cassie Porter (70) and Whitney Hillier (70) four shots back in a share of ninth.
On the designated ‘Yellow Day’ for a tournament being played in honour of the late Jarrod Lyle, Green was uncharacteristically off-colour early but used a string of three birdies after the turn to re-establish her position at the top of the leaderboard.
Seeking to become first female winner of a Webex Players Series event and the first female winner of a mixed event on any major golf tour around the world, Green found early momentum hard to come by.
She was upstaged over the front nine by junior playing partner Sheridan Clancy before a run of three straight birdies from the 10th hole restored her status as a tournament co-leader at 15-under par.
A birdie at 15 was followed by a bogey at the long par-3 16th due to an awkward stance in the greenside bunker, the world No.30 bouncing back immediately with another birdie at the par-4 17th.
An aggressive first putt from the fringe left the major champion with work to do for a closing par, her putt sliding by the left side of the cup to fall into a share of the lead.
“Hopefully this is my bad round for the week,” said Green.
“Now that we’ve got 18 holes left and it’s really scoreable out here I am feeling the pressure.
“It’s always nice to be a couple in front but being tied with the boys is harder.
“A lot of the members have been saying they always cheer for the females a little bit more just to get over the line and get that first win.
“I feel like I’m in a good position to do that so there’s definitely some pressure but that’s a good thing.”
Much like Green on day one, Collyer’s assault on the course record set by Daniel Gale in the fourth group of the day began with a flourish, an eagle at the par-5 first from 35 feet followed by four birdies across the next five holes to be six-under through six holes.
After turning in 29, Collyer went to seven-under on his round with a birdie at 10 but dropped a shot at 12 to hand the outright lead back to Millar.
It would prove to be only a momentary stumble as he picked up shots at the 15th and 17th holes to match Gale’s 63 and earn a share of the lead with one round left to play.
“I got off to a really hot start and I was just putting myself in good positions,” said Collyer.
“I did that the first two days but didn’t feel like I rolled in the putts when I had the chances and today it really came together.
“I’ve been playing well lately and putting in a lot of work so I know at some point I will get rewarded for that.”
The 2021 Queensland Open champion, Evans conceded that the large gallery drawn to watch Green in action added to his own nervous energy but was pleased with how he responded.
“I didn’t know what to expect with my game because you’ve got all morning to think about everything but I’m very happy,” Evans said.
“I’m happy with the way I finished. Good birdie on 10, good par on 11, good birdie on 13.
“It’s bunched now. You’ve just got to attack when you can and do the best you can.”
A birdie at the par-5 10th saw Millar take the outright lead early on the back nine but a bogey at 12 and par at the short par-4 13th ensured the Canberra pro would end the day as part of the quartet on top.
“The goal of today was to try and make sure that if I didn’t lead that I was right up there,” Millar said.
“It’s not a course you want to be four or five back on. Hopefully I can put a good score on the board tomorrow.”
Gale dragged himself into the mix with a bogey-free 63 playing in the fourth group of the day, an eagle at the par-5 10th and four birdies in the space of five holes late in his round elevating him inside the top-20 and earning a Sunday sleep-in.
Murray’s rise will also make his commute from Albury easier on Sunday morning with an expected gallery of friends and family to provide the 24-year-old with further incentive.
“Hopefully there are a few more other people so they don’t stand out too much because they might be a bit rowdy,” Murray said of an expanded Sunday gallery.
“I’ve never played a tournament like this on the Murray before so to get over the line tomorrow with the family here would be cool.
“It hasn’t been ideal actually because it’s an hour-and-a-half drive; I’m in the middle of being close but not close enough.
“That’s part of the reason I’m happy to be up near the top of the leaderboard, it means I can cruise down here mid-morning and have a stretch and a warm-up.”
Two late bogeys dropped Whitney Hillier (70) into a share of ninth but the West Australian will remember her third round for the hole-in-one she had with 8-iron at the 129-metre par-3 ninth.
Undaunted by her position in the final group of the day, Clancy will start the final round of the TPS Junior Players Series tied with Jazy Roberts at one-over par.
Clancy was four-under through 11 holes but back-to-back double bogeys at 15 and 16 brought her back to the pack.
The pair enjoy a two-stroke lead from Bailey Goodall (74) with Abbey Bull (75), Louise Baliton (76) and Kade Bryant (76) well and truly in the mix.
The final round of TPS Murray River will be broadcast live on Fox Sports and Kayo Freebies from 12.30pm AEDT on Sunday.