Travis Smyth’ bogey-free round of five–under 66 on Saturday has set up a mouth-watering finale with the amateur sensation to take a four-stroke advantage over the field into Sunday at the Northern Territory PGA Championship – presented by Cazalys Palmerston.
Starting the round tied with rookie professional Frazer Droop at 10-under, Smyth was out of the blocks quickly with birdies on the opening two holes. It was a lead he never surrendered at any point in the round, despite some minor hiccups on the back nine.
“I was playing great on the front nine and we made the turn and the wind got up from a different direction than we’ve seen the previous days. It took a few holes to adjust to that and then I made a few great pars from some errant shots,” Smyth said.
“All in all, happy with my bogey-free round today. I’ve only had one bogey for three days so that’s key, for sure.”
Smyth showed off his scrambling ability when a few shots went awry over the stretch of holes from the 14th to the 17th. The prospect of dropped shots were very real on the 14th, 16th – where he pulled his tee shot at least 20 metres left of the green - and 17th but the 22-year old’s coolness under the gun got him out of a jam every time.
“It feels great and looking back, I realise how crucial some of the up and downs were.”
“ I’m trying to hit it in the exact same positions off the tee every day, I feel like it’s the way to map around this golf course. I’ll stick with that today unless a cyclone hits, it’s going to be enjoyable.”
Smyth’s position is eerily similar to fellow Wollongong product Jordan Zunic last year, who won the title after leading on every day after an opening 64 in the first round. Smyth has either held a share or the outright lead on each day so far and while a four-stroke lead is a new deal for him, he’s unfazed by the challenge and opportunity that lies ahead on Sunday.
“I won the Riversdale Cup a few years ago where I led and was one behind and stuff like that. I’ve never had a big lead before and especially not in a pro event.”
“People keep saying ‘Are you nervous?’ and stuff like that but in my mind, all it is between amateurs and pros is the little bracket saying ‘pro’ or ‘amateur’ after your name.”
“If I’m leading after three days, there’s no reason why I can’t go and win the thing. I’ve gained inspiration from guys who’ve won over the last few years, Ben Eccles won the NSW Open, Brett Coletta won the Queensland Open as an amateur and Curtis Luck won the WA Open, where I finished runner up.”
"It’s going to be exciting today, I’m really looking forward to it.”