Mark Brown has a couple of mates to thank for spotting a flaw in his putting stroke and the difference for the Kiwi golfer was apparent as he carded a sizzling six-under 66 and took the lead on day three of the New Zealand Open at Clearwater yesterday.
Brown holds a three-shot advantage heading into the final round in Christchurch today after he raced up the leaderboard on moving day, having begun day three at one-over the card. The 37-year-old has threatened to break the shackles during the tournament as he logged rounds of 72 and 73 and said he received some advice on Friday night.
"I tried to make two changes today - one was to stay a bit more patient, the other was with my putting," Brown said. "A couple of friends picked up one thing last night on telly. It was to keep a bit stiller over the ball. I have a tendency to look up at times and when it's windy it makes it worse. I knew I was hitting the ball well, it was just a matter of holing some putts when I needed and today, for the most part, I putted beautifully."
The tips Brown received certainly worked as his round of 66 included seven birdies and only one bogey. He's bidding to be the first Kiwi to win the New Zealand Open since Mahal Pearce at Middlemore in 2003.
There are plenty of Australians chasing Brown, namely Peter Wilson and amateur Jake Higginbottom, who share second at two-under the card. Four players are fourth at one-under, including veteran Australian Peter O'Malley, day-one leader Craig Hancock, Queenslander Steven Jeffress and Kiwi hopeful Michael Hendry. Hendry held the lead at one point during the afternoon but two double bogeys after the turn saw him sign for a 70.
Brown, who has played throughout Asia and Australia this year after losing his European Tour card, said a win at the New Zealand Open would be a career highlight.
"It'll be huge. There are a lot of things at the end of this year in terms of money lists in Australia but I think overriding that is the chance to have your name on the New Zealand Open trophy. It'd mean everything to me."
Conditions have had a significant impact on scoring this week and Brown has enjoyed favourable tee times that has seen him avoid the worst of the wind. But he would welcome the breeze in the final round.
"It probably suits me. I don't think anyone enjoys it but I've probably got just as much experience in it as anyone, especially growing up in Wellington. My ball flight is pretty low. It's never fun, especially around a course like Clearwater where there's trouble and loads of water and there are double bogeys lurking around a lot of those holes if you hit a poor shot."
Tasmania's Clint Rice provided the shot of day three when he aced the 177m par-three ninth hole.