Adam Scott (Getty Images)
Adam Scott stands on the verge of a home soil hat-trick after stretching his lead to four shots ahead of the final round of the Emirates Australian Open, with Rory McIlroy his only real challenger after a big day at the Royal Sydney Golf Club.
Scott blotted his scorecard with two bogeys in a third round of 68, but that compared well with the four he recorded on Friday after his blistering opening effort of 62.
A run of three birdies between the seventh and ninth ensured he remained the right side of par on the day and helped him pull clear of McIlroy, who ran into trouble early in the day with a bogey on the fourth and a double bogey on the fifth, before recovering with four birdies between the seventh and 14th helping him to a round of 70.
That sees Scott stretch his overnight lead to four, but with McIlroy also increasing his grip on second place - four shots clear of Matthew Jones, Richard Green and Max McCardie in a three-way tie for third - it appears unlikely that Sunday's winner will come from anywhere other than the top two.
Earlier this month Scott won the Australian PGA Championship and the Talisker Masters, before claiming the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf team title alongside individual winner Jason Day.
The 33 year old has been credited with giving the sport a shot-in-the-arm Down Under, and the biggest crowds seen in over a decade have flocked to see him perform in what has been dubbed Australia’s “Summer of Golf” by local media.
“It's just been fantastic. I can't believe this week how many people have come out and to see everyone so excited to watch Rory and I play today,” Scott said.
“I think it's been an incredible month for Australian golf, to see the enthusiasm about the game at the moment and positive signs moving forward. Hopefully the same happens tomorrow and we have a great atmosphere out there to play in.”
Scott already has a career triple crown, but a win on Sunday would make him only the second player after Robert Allenby (2005) to win all three in a season.
“Before this month started I hadn't won two tournaments in-a-row ever,” he said. “To have this opportunity is a bit unreal. It would be sad if I didn't finish it off tomorrow … a sad way to end an incredible year.”
McIlroy is certainly not out of it as the Northern Irishman continues to show signs of a return to form since finishing joint second at the Korea Open last month.
“There are plenty of chances out there, it's just a matter of taking the opportunities when they come,” he said.
“There can be a lot of two shot swings — even the first couple of holes. If someone makes a couple of pars and somebody gets off to a flying start and makes a birdie and an eagle, you're right back in it. “