Powerful Zunic looks set for Gold Coast glory
Third-round fireworks should prove decisive
Story so far
Jordan Zunic, a 200-1 Australian PGA Championship rag at the outset, is joint 7-5 favourite with 18 holes to play, having gone three shots clear at the top of the Castle Pines leaderboard.
Zunic, a 25-year-old Australian with immense potential, made 11 birdies in his first 16 holes of round three, knowing birdies at the 17th and 18th would have carded the first 59 in European Tour history. The moment got the better of him, with three shots dropped, but the giant Wollongong man remained in control of the tournament.
Cameron Smith shares market leadership with Zunic. Smith, winner of a US Tour pairs event with Jonas Blixt in May, is chasing his first individual title as a professional.
Ante-post favourite Marc Leishman is in fourth place, seven shots off the pace, while Sergio Garcia is alone in seventh. Adam Scott missed the cut.
-17 Jordan Zunic
-14 Cameron Smith
-13 Adam Bland
-10 David Bransdon, Marc Leishman
-9 Greg Chalmers
-8 Sergio Garcia
7-5 C Smith, J Zunic, 8 A Bland, 12 M Leishman, 66 S Garcia, 125 D Bransdon, G Chalmers, 400 bar
It is a surprise to see buzzing powerhouse Jordan Zunic is not even clear favourite for the Australian PGA Championship after his round-three masterclass. It was only a matter of time before this class act started making an impact in significant events and the layers appear to be underestimating his hopes of converting this chance.
Adrenaline, always difficult for players to make a judgement on in top-level events, cost Zunic a bigger lead. Chasing an incredible 13-under-par 59, he took a two-iron off the 17th tee and it flew a remarkable 295 yards into a fairway bunker. The sand was typically out of range, but he was pumped to the nines, and a poor finish resulted.
Zunic took the setback well, though, focusing on his brilliant first 16 holes, and the two-time Australasian Tour champion can claim the biggest title of his career on Sunday. He won the New Zealand Open in 2015 and the Northern Territory PGA Championship last year.
Zunic has not been in great form this season, but he revealed this week that the problems have been more mental than physical. He has brought a better attitude to the course this week and having his girlfriend on the bag seems to be helping. His 17 under par for 54 holes is a fantastic total on a far from straightforward course, and getting in the 20s under par should get the job done.
Cameron Smith has never won a tournament and he tightens up when in contention. He has performed well in US Tour events and competes consistently at a high level, but has never been able to get over the line in front on a Sunday. The Queenslander will not want for support as he bids to overcome the three-shot deficit, but that will probably not be enough.
Marc Leishman is well capable of a flying finish, but giving a seven-shot start to Zunic is likely to prove too generous. Afternoon storms are forecast for Queensland, so tee-times have been pushed forward and the action is scheduled to resume at 8pm, with the leaders out at 10pm.
4pts 7-5 Betfred