Golf: Fox makes run for home thanks to Williams

Ryan Fox and Steve Williams make their run at the NZ Open. Photo / photosport.nz
Ryan Fox and Steve Williams make their run at the NZ Open. Photo / photosport.nz

There were ominous signs for the rest of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open field as the all-star combination of Ryan Fox and Steve Williams started to turn coal into diamonds ahead of today's final round.

A flurry of late scoring, including back-to-back eagles from Kiwi Michael Hendry, saw the top of the leaderboard back-up like an Auckland motorway on-ramp, with Millbrook Resort local Ben Campbell carding a five-under 66 to lead the tournament by one shot on 20-under from Australian Brad Kennedy, who shot a three-under 68.

"It's always a nice feeling to be at the top of the leaderboard. I was pleased with how I played [yesterday] - I didn't have my A game and I just managed to get a score on the board," Campbell said.

"It's something that I've talked about with my coach, doing ugly well, and that's what I did [yesterday]."

Kennedy, the 2011 champion, led for much of the day, but stumbled with two bogeys on the back nine.

"It was a positive day and I can start chasing now," he said. "It is nice to have some Kiwi-Aussie banter. There are some guys behind who can shoot low so I know I need to play well, stay aggressive and do my best to chase down Ben."

A double bogey on the last hole saw 2014 champion Dimitrios Papadatos dip to a share of third with Hendry, the pair trailing Campbell by three shots.

"It was pretty ordinary, to be honest," said Hendry, who has been troubled by a back injury not helped by the glacial pace of play at this tournament.

"I just kept telling myself to stay patient and hopefully I'd capitalise on some opportunities coming in and I did. Golf is a hard enough game at the best of times - there's a field of 70 guys trying to beat you, there's no point trying to make it 71."

Fox finished the day in a share of ninth, seven shots in arrears, spurred on by Williams, who is carrying Fox's bag for the first time this week.

After failing to capitalise on a solid four-under opening round with a solitary late birdie on Friday, Fox produced the hot round of the day at Millbrook Resort yesterday - a four-birdie finish propelling him to eight-under for the day and 13-under overall.

Fox credited a post-round "chat" with Williams for a scything performance with the putter yesterday.

"He's great at instilling confidence in you. We had a chat after [Friday], I made a couple of nice putts just to make the cut and instead of worrying about the putts I missed earlier in the round, he said, 'you made the putts that you needed to make'," Fox said.

"It made me feel a little more comfortable and confident [yesterday] and it showed on the greens a little bit."

Fox, who has left his regular caddie back in Europe, said the impact of having Williams inside the ropes with him was paying dividends.

Fox will swing hard during today's final round, cognisant that history only remembers winners.

"I've got nothing to lose [today]. It was the same [yesterday] - go low or bust - and it's the same thing [today]. I want to win the tournament," he said.

"I'd love to be at the pointy end of the tournament at the end."

One factor in today's outcome could be a forecasted southerly weather change.

Leaderboard

194: Ben Campbell (NZL).
195: Brad Kennedy (AUS).
197: Dimitrios Papadatos (AUS), Michael Hendry (NZL).
198: James Nitties (AUS).
199: Matthew Griffin (AUS), Deyen Lawson (AUS), Sung-Jae Im (KOR).
201: Ryan Fox (NZL), Andrew Evans (AUS), Andrew Dodt (AUS), Young-Han Song (KOR).

- Herald on Sunday

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