(Reuters) - Jordan Zunic fired 11 birdies in 16 holes on his way to matching the course record with an eight-under 64 before a late lapse left him three shots clear after the third round of the Australian PGA Championship on Saturday.
The 25-year-old, who won the 2015 New Zealand Open shortly after turning professional, was well on target for an even more remarkable round until he dropped three shots on his final two holes at the Royal Pines Resort in Queensland.
Zunic sits on 17-under for the tournament with one round remaining, while fellow Australian and playing partner Cameron Smith is alone in second after shooting a five-under 67 in the co-sanctioned Australasian and European Tour event.
Second round leader Adam Bland is a further shot back in third after the left-hander signed for a one-under 71. Fellow Australians David Bransdon (66) and Marc Leishman (74) are tied for fourth at 10-under 206.
”Obviously not the way I planned to finish,“ Zunic told reporters. ”It was 16 amazing holes and to be honest I didn’t think I did anything too wrong in the final two holes.
“It was an unbelievable day out there.”
Zunic, who was involved in a near-fatal car crash in the United States four years ago that left him with serious head and elbow injuries, played impeccable golf until the 17th where he produced a bogey-five.
He had made seven birdies on the front nine, including four in a row from the sixth, before making four more successive birdies from the 13th.
His storming run was halted on the penultimate hole before he found a fairway bunker on 18 and needed two putts to get down for a double-bogey six, while Smith saved par after a superb greenside chip left him less than two meters from the pin.
”He put on a bit of display for the first 13 or 14 holes,“ Smith said of Zunic’s round. ”It was pretty incredible to watch and he was just a magician on the greens, I think he only had 15 putts in the first 14 holes.
“But I didn’t let Jordan’s round get ahead of me and kept on doing what I was doing. I knew I was playing well and putting well and made the most of my chances.”
U.S. Masters champion Sergio Garcia was alone in seventh on eight-under 208 after shooting 70, the Spaniard mixing four birdies with two bogeys.
The final round will begin early on Sunday due to predicted thunderstorms for the Gold Coast region later in the day.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien