Lucas Herbert [pictured] is within reach of a second professional title in the space of two months after a stunning six-under par third round at the 101st New Zealand Open.
The 24-year-old Victorian sits tied for the lead at 15-under alongside Korea’s Joohyung Kim with 18 holes to play at Millbrook Resort after a round of seven birdies and a lone bogey at the challenging par-5 13th.
A lead-securing birdie from Herbert at 17 was quickly matched by Kim on the 18th to tie the lead through 54 holes.
“I started off quite nicely and got that little three-birdie run through the middle and got myself in a nice position, but then straight after that I felt like I really battled my golf swing for a few holes and hit some errant ones,” Herbert said.
“To fight back like I did and make some really good swings sort of 15, 16, 17 and even 18 there to hit it in the middle of the green, I was really proud of that because I think we’ve got a bit of work to do on the range to get ready for tomorrow.”
Fuelled by Queenstown’s famous Fergburgers and fresh New Zealand air, the Bendigo local will draw on the confidence gained after January’s European Tour win when he takes to the first tee tomorrow at 12:30pm, New Zealand time.
“Tomorrow is going to be a different story. I don’t think I’ve ever been as ready as I am right now to go and do it. I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
“I think that win in Dubai is really going to help me out given I hadn’t done it before. That gives me that confidence that I can get it over the line and beat everyone.
“I’ll just try to channel that tomorrow. Some good positive thoughts from a month ago about that and whatever happens, happens.”
Keenly aware of the talent surrounding the top of the leaderboard, round one and two leader Kim will adopt an aggressive approach as he aims to go low on Sunday.
“Fortunately I played in the morning yesterday when the wind wasn’t as bad, but the first day when we had a lot of wind and some rain, it played really tough and some of those pins you just couldn’t get at,” Kim said.
“A day like today, it made it easier to fire at pins and give yourself birdie chances.”
“From the looks of it I’m going to have to go pretty low tomorrow, especially if the weather stays like this. I just hope that the putts drop and we’ll see how it goes.”
With loved ones in town for the ISPS Handa PGA Tour of Australasia and Asian Tour co-sanctioned tournament, a win close to home would tick yet another career box for Herbert.
“Given that family and friends are all here this week too that would be awesome. My dad hasn’t seen me win yet so that would be pretty cool,” Herbert said.
“To get a win on the Australian Tour, as much as it’s not in Australia it would be good to prove back home that I can play as well as overseas.”
Queensland’s Brad Kennedy remains in the hunt for a second New Zealand Open title after a five-under 66 third round at Millbrook Resort to sit in outright third place and two shots off the lead.
American Chan Kim and Novocastrian Nick Flanagan are tied three shots back at 12-under the card in fourth place.
Kiwi hopes rest on the shoulders of Michael Hendry and Harry Bateman, who both sit four shots off the lead, and Kieran Muir, who is a further shot adrift.
Entry is free for the final round, which will tee off at Millbrook Resort tomorrow.