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Hall Keeps Three-Shot Lead In NZ PGA

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Hall Keeps Three-Shot Lead In NZ PGA

Australian Ashley Hall will carry the three-shot lead he held after 36 holes of the New Zealand PGA Championship into the final round at Clearwater tomorrow, but midway through the third round he was in a far more commanding position.

With eight holes to play, the sturdy 26-year-old Victorian was seven shots clear, four-under through 10 holes and feeling completely at easy and in control. One hole later his lead was cut by three shots when he double-bogeyed the par-3 174m 11th hole and playing partner, New Zealand left-hander Gareth Paddison, birdied it.

When Hall bogeyed the par-13th his lead was reduced to three over Paddison and the third member of the final group, Canterbury's Anthony Doyle, who had birdied the 12th. The gap stayed the same with Hall and Paddison finishing with five pars, but Doyle lost contact on the last with a horrendous triple-bogey.

Hall finished on one-under 71 to back up sub-par rounds of 68 and 69 on the first two days and at eight-under par he leads Paddison and fellow Kiwi Grant Moorhead by three shots with former Australian Open champion, Stephen Allan, alone in fourth place on four-under.

American Joe Affrunti, who had the day's best score of three-under 69 along with New Zealand's Mahal Pearce, was at three-under along with New South Welshman, Mitchell Brown. Hall, who turned professional in 2006 and has won the 2007 Victorian PGA and last year's Victorian Open titles, admits leading into the final day will be a first. `

`I came from behind in horrendously windy conditions in the PGA - I was four-under in the last round and was nine shots down with nine to play but everyone else crumbled. Somehow I got into a play-off (and won).

``In the Victorian Open last year I was close to the lead all day, but not holding it so tomorrow will be a new experience.'' Hall had no complaints about the double-bogey that took him out of his comfort zone. ``I was cruising along unbelievably well until the 11th tee.

Possibly it was a bad club choice but it was a terrible shot, really fat and didn't deserve to get over the water so I thoroughly deserved to take a double there. ``I was trying to get a few shots back towards the end to get a few more ahead but it doesn't matter. The course isn't playing easy again and I'm happy for a bit more wind to make it harder for the chasers.''

Although three shots back, both Moorhead and Paddison believe the penal nature of the Clearwater course and the forecasted buffeting winds mean a deficit of this nature can evaporate very quickly, as happened on the 11th today. Both are adept in windy conditions, and in Moorhead's case, he feels very comfortable on the course having played there so many times. "I hit the ball really well today and had a good feel for the pace of the greens.

I lipped out on 17 and just missed on 16 and 18. It was a solid round of golf." Apart from three birdies, the only blemish on his card was at the Par 5 10th, a hole playing reasonably easily because of the strong tail wind.

"I was just short for two, hit a bad chip and then hit my putt about four feet past and missed the return. It really was a careless mistake," he said.

Paddison was another to watch as putts shaved the hole or sat on the edge. His ball striking may not have been as solid as Moorhead's but he scrambled well, and was bogey-free throughout. With some of the tees being up because of the weather, Paddison used a variety of clubs off the tee - driver, three wood, two iron - "whatever went straightest." " I have hit about five bad shots and it has not cost me.

I was very happy with the way I scrambled the middle part of my round (13th, 14th, 15th). I also had a lot of chips and putts that just shaved the hole.

You think they are going to drop and they just seem to miss. I'm hoping a few will drop tomorrow. Paddison is looking for a good start tomorrow "-2 after five would be great, or even -1 if it is windy, just so long as Ash doesn't start with four birdies." The 18th was a heartbreak hole for Doyle.

Tied for second standing on the last, he put his first into a fairway bunker, pulled his second into the water, just caught the wrong wide of thee ridge with his approach and then three-putted for a seven. Live scoring is on http://www.pga.org.au/

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