Queenslander Kade McBride has the PLAY TODAY NSW Open at his fingertips after another fine round at Rich River today, but his three-shot lead is under threat from a bunch of high-class players headed by Sydney’s John Lyras.
McBride, 28, from the Gold Coast, is chasing his first win in a tier-one ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia tournament, and he added a 6-under 65 in oppressive, hot and windy conditions on Saturday to his earlier 66-63 to move from a share of the lead to the outright top position.
At 19-under, he will play alongside St Michael’s John Lyras (16-under), another emerging tour player who is yet to win at this level.
Lyras Predicts Saturday 63
Lyras, 26, played superb golf in the 38-degree heat and in winds blustering to 40km/h, carding an 8-under par 63 to go with his early pair of 67s.
Lyras, who has his eye on the Order of Merit as well, hit a peerless 5-iron shot into the par-5 18th and had a three-metre eagle putt that would have seen him equal Nathan Barbieri’s course record of 62 from Friday.
But his putt ducked low of the hole and he had to be content with a tap-in birdie.
“I can’t really complain,” said the Sydneysider. “I’ll take 63. I was looking at a 63 this morning ‘yep let’s go for that and get something out of the round today’.
“I was talking to my girlfriend Adriana on the phone this morning and she said to me ‘go shoot 63’. I said: ‘Okay, we’ll see what we can do’.
If Rich River was friendly on Friday when four players set or equalled course records, then it turned foul on Saturday.
While the scoring was still relatively low – Elvis Smylie also had a 64 – there were fierce cross winds to accommodate on various holes.
In the circumstances McBride, a player who has been dogged by injuries over the years, was hugely impressive.
Starting out in a share of the lead with Tom Power Horan at 13-under, he immediately grabbed the lead by himself with a nice chip and putt for birdie at the first, added delightful short iron shots in close for birdies at the fourth and fifth, and suddenly led by four shots.
At the par-5 11th he hit two great shots to the green and two-putted for another birdie and while Lyras and to a lesser extent Power Horan were threatening, he looked in control.
As it turned out, this was a mirage. He was exhausted at the finish line, laying up short of the green at 18 and ultimately having to make a putt of just more than a metre to save par.
“Ball-striking was really good all day,” he said. “We turned through nine it got really hot. I kept trying to take the errors off the card and make it as stress-free as possible. The last three holes I didn’t muck up, but they could’ve been a bit better.”
The Queenslander is loving the moment.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s a cool experience. When we have crowds around us it ups the intensity and it’s always fun.
“I’m going to have a cold shower, eat some dinner and get some sleep. That was seriously tough out there. That was hot, windy, like it was a grind. I think the guys who teed off early if anybody played really well, they’ll have a significant advantage going into tomorrow. They’re going to feel a lot fresher than the guys who came off the course late this evening.”
Lyras will be in the final group alongside McBride and Power Horan (15 under) who is still in contention despite an indifferent round today, and he has high hopes.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s what we play for every week. At the end of the day I haven’t won yet, so going into tomorrow, it’s always challenging tyring to close out tournaments. I’m going out there to be my best self and play my best golf.”
The tour’s Order of Merit title is on a precipice with leader David Micheluzzi (14-under and tied-fourth after a 66 today) holding sway, but second-placed Brendan Jones (11-under) refusing to yield in their battle for the top spot that gives the winner a place in the Open Championship. Micheluzzi is 228 points ahead and possibly a good round away from closing it out, but the winner of this tournament on Sunday extracts 380 points.