11 Dec 2021 | Professional golf |

4-way tie at top in Vic PGA

by Martin Blake

Brad Kiviments

Brad Kivimets rode his good fortune in amongst some more gritty golf to maintain his lead through three rounds of the Victorian PGA Championship at Moonah Links today, but he has been joined by three challengers.

Seeking to win his first top-level professional title, the Portsea Golf Club teaching professional scrambled to a 75 with a double bogey at the par-three 17th when he flared his tee shot wide to the right into deep rough.

It opened the door for others and a trio of them have joined him in a four-way tie at the top at nine under par overall – order of merit champion Brad Kennedy (69 today), New South Wales star Blake Windred (also 69) and defending champion Chris Wood (71). Queenslander Michael Sim (74) is just a shot farther back at eight under in what shapes up as a fabulous finish tomorrow on the Mornington Peninsula.

There are 10 players within four shots of the lead, leaving it as a wide-open contest tomorrow.

Kivimets followed rounds of 68-64 with a three-over round on the tougher Open course, starting out with a remarkable birdie at the first hole from deep rough down the left, apparently nerveless. “Looks can be deceiving,” he said later, to correct the false impression. “There was a bit of luck involved, but I’ll take it.”

Soon afterward he caught at least two great breaks – at the par-five fourth hole where his flared drive clanged off the top of a tree and back into play, and at the par-four ninth hole where he was millimetres from driving out of bounds on the left.

The Victorian’s ball came to rest so close to the painted out-of-bounds line there that it required two rules officials to adjudicate that he could play it into the green. Veteran rules official Trevor Herden ultimately deemed that part of the ball was in bounds, and that he could play on, and Kivimets was relieved. “That’s what I thought,” he told Herden, then stood up and knocked his short iron shot on to the green and made par.

“My understanding was the ball had to be completely over the line, which it wasn’t,” he said later. “That’s what the rules official said straight away. That was pretty fortunate.”

Kivimets, 27, has previously won three pro-ams in Australia but no higher echelon events, and he only found his place in the field by winning the PGA Professionals Championship of Victoria title in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago.

“It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it,” said the Melburnian. “It was tough work for me today. I was grinding out there today, made some nice saves here and there but unfortunately made some bad swings at the end that cost myself a bit. But at least I walked off and I’m still tied for the lead. That’s never a bad thing. If you had said to me on Thursday morning we’ll put you tied for the lead with a few other people, I would’ve jumped at it.”

The lowest score of the day in tricky winds was 69, and Kennedy was one of those, perhaps the stand-out of the others. The Queenslander rattled home with four back-nine birdies including a miraculous four at the par-five 15th hole after he lost his second shot way right, luckily found it in the mulga, and made “a pretty amazing up-and-down” from there.

Kennedy has just resumed playing and practising after spending five months overseas this year taking up the privileges of his order of merit win – a start in the US Open, the Open Championship and the World Golf Championship. “I haven’t practised since I got back from the WGC in August,” he said. “I’ve been working hard on my training trying to get ready for next year. I only picked up my golf clubs last Thursday. But it’s nice to play a few rounds under these conditions and see where your game’s at.”

The experience of playing against the world’s best left him with something to work with. “You’re always try to match yourself against the best and to play the same course as they play gives you a perspective of where you’re at. I learnt a lot about myself but also the quality of play out there in the US and in Europe is amazing.”

Plenty of others made runs on the day, with Wood having a four-metre birdie putt at the last to take the outright lead but missing.

Windred and Paul Rodney lead the pro-am challenge at 24 under par entering the final round.

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