Written with MARTIN BLAKE
Thirteenth Beach turned all Carnoustie on Saturday, with gale-force winds and sideways rain interspersed with bursts of sunshine. It was four-seasons-in-a-day weather and it was always going to open up the ISPS Handa Vic Open.
Seven players touched the lead in the men’s event at different times of a crazy day at 13th where the rounds took close to six hours to complete.
But the battle didn’t begin and end with the players. Spectators and even course marshals had their share of battles with the elements, including one official manning the first tee, who was seemingly attacked by his, ahem, poncho.
Take a look:
As commentator Alison Whitaker quite rightly asked, “At what point should you actually start to worry about him?”
Thankfully the man managed to avoid suffocation and successfully adorn the outfit as advertised but not before entertaining the entire nation.
One man who is handling the conditions we’ll is tournament leader Wade Ormsby. At 38, Ormsby feels he has reached the age to play his best golf. So much so that this week, he has a new coach, Liam James, and apparently, a new resolve. He has won tournaments in India and Hong Kong, but never in his native Australia. Sunday presents his best chance yet.
Saturday he had significant challenges to overcome, notably a calamity early when he bladed a bunker shot from beside the second green and ended up taking a double bogey. He’d started out just a shot from the lead held by Jason Scrivener of Western Australia and Nick Flanagan of New South Wales. Now he dropped back into the pack.
But ever-so steadily Ormsby worked his way back into the mix again like the good professional that he is, with birdies at the fifth, ninth, 13th and the 18th. His father Peter, a life member of the Australian PGA and a fixture in the Adelaide golfing community, would have been proud of his ability to grind out a score on a tough day.
With the winds gusting above 60km/h and bending the flags over, he cobbled a two-under par 70 that left him at 15-under par overall two shots ahead. From that point on the second, he made four birdies and no bogeys, steady golf to say the least of it.
But there are 15 players within five shots of the lead in what could well be a blanket finish.
They included Matt Stieger of New South Wales (65), who plays his golf at St Michael’s in Sydney where the wind whips off the ocean on one side and Botany Bay on the other, enjoyed the conditions and said he hoped for more of the same today. Remarkably, Stieger began the third round at 6.40am playing in the first group; Sunday he will be in the last group with Ormsby, which is quite some turn of events.
Englishman Callum Shinkwin previously best known for having thrown away the Scottish Open in 2017, bobbed up with 66 early and also is in a share of second place, just two shots behind Ormsby.
A shot further back at 12-under are South African Justin Harding (66 today), Scotland’s David Law and Japanese-based Australian Brad Kennedy, who was one of the seven players who had a share of the lead at one point.
The day’s events were symbolised by happenings at the par three seventh hole, barely 100 metres but at the high point of the course, where the wind shifted the balls up to 15 metres from the right, a “brutal’’ par 3, according to Ormsby. “You kind of want to grab another ball and have another crack,’’ he said.
In the final group, two players – Nick Flanagan and Jason Scrivener – made double-bogey at that hole while Ormsby, who also missed the green left, scrambled a par. It was the hardest 100 metres in golf for a day, earning its nickname ‘The Postage Stamp’, mimicking Royal Troon’s famous eighth.
Almost everyone was struggling. Lucas Herbert, the top-ranked Australian in the field, began with four bogeys, shot 76 and missed the third-round cut. Matt Jager began with a triple-bogey followed by a double-bogey. It was survival of the fittest.
Flanagan began with a share of the lead and shot 76. Scrivener, the other overnight leader, shot 76, too, including a penalty for picking up his ball-marker without replacing the ball on the 15th green, an extraordinary brain fade.
Yet in amongst it there was some great golf, notably from Stieger, the 27-year-old from Sydney. “Coming from St Michael’s, I’ve played a lot of golf in the wind,’’ said Stieger. “I actually love these types of conditions. The first day it didn’t blow at all and I shot one-under! Yesterday it blew in the afternoon and I shot five and today I shot seven (under). It’s getting better and better. I’m just hoping another day like today would be good.’’
Ormsby said he would not change a thing tomorrow; might even avert his eyes at the sight of an electronic board. “Last time I didn’t look at the leaderboard, I won,’’ he said. “I think I’ll be doing that tomorrow. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing, keep churning it out, especially with this kind of golf. I’d probably prefer it to blow a bit tomorrow. My short game feels good, my putting feels strong and generally I’m a quite straight hitter.’’
Thirty-six men made the final cut for the alternating groups Sunday, with Geoff Ogilvy (-6) one who just slid into the final day. Two amateurs – David Micheluzzi and Blake Windred – are among those males who will tee it up.
The weather forecast is better, a 26-degree day but with some wind. Almost goes without saying.