Steve Webster of England and Australian Nick O’Hern aim to convert half a dozen second place finishes between them into a first victory on The European Tour International Schedule when they go into the last round of the ANZ Championship looking down on the rest of the field at Horizons Golf Resort, Port Stephens, New South Wales.
Webster, 29, now into his ninth successive season on Tour, has accumulated four runners-up places over the past few years. However, with the benefit of a golf lesson from former Masters Champion to put his game in order, the Midlands player will lead a tournament into the final day for the first time after a shooting a 67 - featuring seven birdies and two bogeys - which translates into 12 points under the modified Stableford format in operation for the ANZ Championship.
Webster fired four birdies on the front nine, before making three birdies and consecutive bogeys at the 14th and 15th on the way home, adding 12 points to the score of 27 which had earned him the halfway lead. O’Hern, the 18-hole leader at Horizons and runner-up on two occasions in the past, lies five points adrift on 34 after collecting eight points in his third round of 69..
Despite his commanding lead, Webster admitted: “I’ve never led a tournament before, so it’s a new experience.”
Webster has made a dramatic return to form since being given an impromptu golfing lesson from Welshman Ian Woosnam a week ago. He said: “I was really in a mess last Saturday, my posture, my alignment and my ball position were all out.
“So it really felt strange how Woosie told me to set up but I did a good three hours work and the rewards are sweet, really.”
Webster constantly draped a wet towel over his head between shots in an effort to combat the warm conditions at the Horizons course. “When you’re used to playing in England when it’s minus two (degrees) and you come here and it’s 35, it’s a slight difference,” he said.
But Webster doesn’t want to dwell on the heat on Sunday, or the fact that he has a huge chance to grab his first tournament victory. He continued: “I’ve just got to go out there and focus on each shot. You’ve just got to play one shot at a time with this format. It’s a course set up for birdies, so I’ve got to keep my foot on the gas with the birdies. I’m just going to play tomorrow and see what happens.”
With a total of 39 points, Webster leads by five from 32 year old O'Hern, who birdied the last for a round of 69 worth eight points and a total of 34. Two more Australians, Scott Gardiner and US Amateur champion Nick Flanagan lie third and fourth with 32 and 31 points respectively.
Defending champion Paul Casey, whose round of 63 on Friday was confirmed as the new Horizons course record, is tied seventh on 29 points, one behind American Ricky Barnes and Frenchman Thomas Levet. Casey was not in quite such sparkling form in the third round, shooting a 71, including a double-bogey five on the sixth, for six points.
The format, used only in the ANZ Championship and at The International in Colorado, encourages attacking golf by awarding five points for an eagle, two for birdie but minus one for a bogey.