Not even an upset stomach could slow Terry Pilkadaris from record-breaking pace. The Melbourne-based journeyman is on the verge of rewriting 99 years of history at the ISPS HANDA New Zealand Open after a flawless nine-under 62 increased his lead to five strokes.
Pilkadaris reached an astonishing 24-under-par 190 on another day of ideal scoring conditions at Millbrook Resort near Queenstown. The Melbourne-based pro has notched 25 birdies and dropped just one shot over three days.
“That was unbelievable,” Pilkadaris said afterwards. “I just tried not to get in my own way . . . I missed one green and I chipped it in.”
It would be a shock if Pilkadaris doesn’t end a 13-year winless drought stretching back to the 2005 Brunei Open.
Callan O’Reilly (66) is the nearest challenge at 19 under, while Daniel Nisbet (67) is six behind at 18 under. In a tie for fourth and seven strokes back are David Bransdon (63), Jarin Todd (65) and Harrison Endycott (66).
Given more favourable weather, it appears certain the tournament record – 262 set by Rodger Davis at The Grange in 1986 – will fall tomorrow.
At 24 under, Pilkadaris could also better the lowest score to par. Kel Nagle reached 26-under par at Christchurch Golf Club in 1964 when he won the NZ Open by 12 shots.
The thing that could stop Pilkadaris may be his desire to enter the kitchen. After cooking himself breakfast this morning, he needed two toilet stops on the back nine and had “to swing it easy towards the end there”.
But he won’t be backing off: “Eighteen holes and I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said. “If it’s like this then you’ve got to keep shooting at the flags.”
Nearest challenger O’Reilly proved even the best players can suffer brain fades. He made an eagle 3 on the 10th to grab a share of the lead at 19 under. But after crushing his next drive 299 metres, O’Reilly hit a hosel-shank on his approach to the 11th green. The resulting bogey 5 halted his momentum and he finished at 19 under.
Mid-afternoon a fairytale storyline emerged when two-time New Zealand amateur champion Daniel Hillier produced an exhilarating 64 that included an eagle, eight birdies and three bogeys. Despite his heroics, the Wellington teenager is too far back at 16 under.
Earlier in the day, Newcastle pro Nick Flanagan recorded the second ace of the tournament when he holed out with a pitching wedge on the 127m second hole at Millbrook. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur on the 13th where sponsor Hyundai is offering a Santa Fe SUV as part of its Drive For Good initiative to be donated to one of three charities.
Flanagan, who pre-qualified at Paraparaumu Beach last week, shot a 65 to rocket up the leaderboard after scraping into the weekend on the seven-under cut line. He is T-22 on 13 under.
It’s a sign of progress for the former US Amateur champion who underwent surgery on his left thumb in 2014. Only now is the 33-year-old starting to rekindle the sort of form that made him one of golf’s top prospects in 2003.