Two kiwis chase internationals in New Zealand Open final day

Australian Shae Wools-Cobb is the man to beat a host of challengers are ready to spoil his Sunday during tomorrow’s final round of the 102nd New Zealand Open, presented by Sky Sport.

Wools-Cobb had only one blemish on his card today, the 13th proving lucky on the way to a six-under 65 which sees him 17-under for the tournament, but he has any number of players who are still within reach.

Seventeen players will start the final day within seven shots, including second-placed Chris Wood, the overnight leader, who is three shots in arrears. Former winners Michael Hendry and Zach Murray, several Asian players and impressive New Zealand amateur Kazuma Kobori lead the chase.

Wools-Cobb made a conservative start in cold and wet conditions before pouring in five straight birdies to make the turn in 30. After a long break at the turn, he was only able to add two birdies over the back nine.

“I was hitting it nicely and hit I think it was five (birdies) in a row,” he said. “I don’t know how long the wait was but it felt like an hour. I had a pretty easy par five after that and not birdying it was a bit of a dampener, but I’m pretty proud of how I had a few birdies coming in.”

Leading a tournament of this magnitude after 54 holes is new territory, but Wools-Cobb, who turned professional in 2018, is looking forward to Sunday.

“It’s my first time doing it, it’s exciting and I’m in a pretty good head space at the moment.”

Wood had a mixed day before a birdie on the 18th earned him outright second, while a par on the scenic island green saw Japan’s Terumichi Kakazu retain outright third place, three shots off the pace.

The round of the day belonged to popular Australian Brendan Jones, who carded a nine-under 62 after surviving the cut on the number to move to a 13-under total and a share of fourth with compatriots Rhein Gibson and Scott Hend.

Jones, who turned 48 on Friday, is considered the most successful foreigner to ever play on the Japanese tour and has been a vocal ambassador for the New Zealand Open.

He survived the early weather without losing any bark and then made the most of the supportive conditions for a flawless round and a 30 on the back nine.

“Being so cold and wet you weren’t thinking about anything early,” Jones said.

“The swing felt good, I was hitting the shots where I was trying to. I had pretty much birdie putt on every hole, but if I had a good putter on the end of my putter I could have had another four or five. Having said that, I still holed a lot of the putts that I should have holed. It’s been a fantastic day out.”

Twenty-one-year-old Kobori was ruing a double bogey on the 17th, but closed with a birdie and a smile to finish at 12-under with Thailand’s Gunn Charoenkul and Japan’s Tomoyo Ikemura.

“I played well,” Kobori said. “That sucks making that double. I have been bogey-free for 52 holes and make a double. Then again I can’t be too disappointed. I had a lot of good putts that did not drop, but hopefully probability goes my way and they drop tomorrow. The birdie on 18 was great, the wind was swirling and I thought I had hit it in the water but it held its line to seven feet and I made birdie.”

The last New Zealander to lift the Brodie Breeze trophy, 2017 champion Michael Hendry, finished six-under for an 11-under total which kept him in contention despite an opening round 72.

Hendry hopes to do enough to force errors out of the frontrunners.

“If they are five in front, I have to shoot five-under, because that means they have to go under par to win it and play good golf to win the tournament. There are going to be plenty of guys around, it’s pretty stacked.”

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