THE AMATEURS: Days of intimidation are gone

Min Woo Lee
Min Woo Lee in round three action at the Emirates Australian Open

 

It may still be a little early to acclaim this as anything even approaching a “Golden Age,” but there is no denying the extraordinary success achieved by Australia’s elite amateurs over the past 18 months or so. Curtis Luck, Cam Davis and Harrison Endycott combined to potent effect and ran away with the Eisenhower Trophy that goes to the winners of the World Amateur Team Championship - by an astonishing 19 shots. Davis also claimed the individual title, with Luck, the US Amateur and Asian-Pacific champion, in second place. And teenager Min Woo Lee (brother of LPGA professional Minjee) is the current US Junior champion. 

So it is surely no surprise that two of the above - Lee and Luck - played themselves into the leading pack after 36-holes of this Emirates Australian Open at Royal Sydney. The days when even the best amateurs were intimidated and outclassed by the top professionals have clearly gone. Perhaps forever. These guys - and Travis Smyth, who sits T-19 after a fine 69 on day three - look like they belong, act like they belong and, no question, play like they belong, even on days when not everything is going entirely their way. 

Which is not to say that Lee and Luck were too happy with their third round performances on a blustery Sydney afternoon. With the wind switching 180-degrees from the previous day, the field was suddenly playing a very different golf course. Lee hung on best of the pair. His 71 has him six-under par and sitting T-11; Luck’s 74, which included a morale-boosting birdie on the final hole, saw him tumble to four-under the card and outside the top-20. He is T-22 and in a pack of ten that includes former champions Steve Allan and Greg Chalmers.

Lee’s problems were mostly off the tee. 

“I didn’t hit many fairways today,” he admitted. “And that led to more mistakes and more bogeys. I need to drive it better tomorrow. I was a bit nervous but I thrive off the pressure and I’ve had great support from the crowds. I just need to learn from the mistakes I made today. Putting and driving are the keys to playing well on this course. The wind made it tricky today though. I landed a few shots in the wrong spots and that cost me.”

Driving was also Luck’s undoing. Three times he hit from the first tee; two provisionals following the big pull he hit - “not my normal miss” - into the trees left.

“The 18th hole has been good to me all week and was again today,” he said, clearly searching for a positive at the end of a disappointing day. “The whole week has been fun. Even today I found some enjoyment, even if I struggled all the way. The bogey I made at the first could have been worse. Three drives off the first tee wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. So I need a low score tomorrow. But it is out there.”