LIV Golf reserve, Andy Ogletree, demonstrated why he is the top player on the Asian Tour this year after shooting a 4-under 67 to take the third-round lead in the International Series England at 9 under.
On a day when the sun came out for the first time this week, although a strong wind accompanied it, unheralded South African Neil Schietekat carded a 66 here at Close House, near Newcastle, to sit one back, while Australian Matt Jones (67), Abraham Ancer (69) from Mexico and Spaniard David Puig (70) are a further stroke adrift.
Ogletree, who heads both the Asian Tour and International Series Order of Merits, finished strongly with an eagle on the par-five 16th, followed by a birdie to edge ahead of a stacked leaderboard.
He had started the day one-shot behind overnight leader and playing partner Puig, who made a costly triple-bogey on the 12th, where he four putted, to hand the lead to the American.
However, Ogletree missed a two-footer for par on the following hole and saw Jones move in front over the closing stages before his storming finish.
“I stayed patient all day, super tough, you know you got a couple birdie opportunities coming in. Hit a great shot on 16 and ended up making an eagle so that was kind of a bonus,” said the 25-year-old American, who has claimed two International Series titles: in Qatar this year, and Egypt last season.
“It was brutal with the wind. Hit a couple of crazy clubs, like I hit a pitching wedge from 168 and stuff like that. So definitely 20-30 yard wind changes, whether it was into or down so pretty, pretty difficult.”
The American appears more well rested than rusty having not played 72-hole tournament golf since April, as he has been travelling with the LIV Golf League as a reserve.
Schietekat is overjoyed to be among the front runners, having nearly not started this week following a nasty fall off a golf buggy earlier in the week.
The 2020 Qualifying School graduate, who has only made one cut this year, said: “I have been with Hamish the physio since Tuesday when I fell off the cart, and on Thursday, I was seconds from pulling out when I was on the driving range.
“I looked at my caddy and I just said well, you know what’s the point, we’re hitting a seven iron 140. We kept on hitting and it kind of warmed up and it got better and then we just kind of figured a way to get it down there. Now I can’t hit my normal draw because I can’t get through the ball the way I normally do, so I’m just hitting it a little butter cut. This is a kind of golf course that you can just like poke it around and kind of get away with it.”
Jones’ gift for playing in the wind was on full display today.
The 43-year-old grew up playing in heavy winds in Australia, and when the wind picked up he seized the opportunity, firing six birdies, and two bogeys.
Said the two-time Australian Open champion who now plays on the LIV Golf League with Ancer and Puig: “Yeah, it wasn’t easy at all, there was nothing easy about it. Greens and pin locations were tough, they did a good job setting the tees up, moving forward to make some holes a lot more playable. It was just about giving yourself the best chance to have a putt uphill on anything you could. And I mean we were hitting six irons 160 yards, so it was a good 30-yard, 40-yard wind.”
India’s Anirban Lahiri, a seven-time winner on the Asian Tour and its Order of Merit champion in 2015, is in sole possession of sixth, four off the lead, following a 69.
He made four consecutive birdies from the 11th, and another on 16, to be in position to mount a challenge for his first Asian Tour victory in eight years.
Former US Open champion Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland was inches away from a hole-in-one on the par-three 18th. He tapped in for his third birdie in the last five holes to card a 71 to finish the day on two under, in a tie for 13th.