Peter Cooke has rocketed out to a two-shot lead at the SP PNG Open after firing 8-under 64 in the third round at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club.
Starting the day tied for fourth position on 8-under the card, two eagles, five birdies and a lone bogey on the 10th hole saw Cooke move to a three-round total of 16-under.
Firing eagles on the par-5 9th and par-5 15th, the second was the shot of the day for the South Australian.
“On the 9th hole I hit into the middle of the fairway, slightly into the wind,” said Cooke.
“It was a tricky little shot actually, there was an overhanging tree just off the fairway and I hit this gorgeous little cut under the tree and it fed towards the flag. I holed about a 15-footer there so that was really satisfying.
“The 15th though was awesome. I was down the left side and blocked out by the trees and just hit this big high cut over the trees and it went to 6-feet.
“It was easily the shot of the day, it was just good fun. That really kept the round going.”
Eagles popped up across the leadboard in round three with second-placed Jack Wilson and big-hitter Lincoln Tighe placing themselves amongst the front-runners thanks to eagles on the par-5 9th.
Overnight leader Steven Jeffress joined Wilson in second place on 14-under the card, with a steady front-9 and birdies on the back-9 keeping him towards the top of the leaderboard.
Tighe also recorded an eagle on the par-4 11th to take his round three total to 8-under to tie for fifth position alongside Daniel Fox, while Jordan Mullaney completed round three in fourth place at 13-under.
Not accustomed to holding the lead heading into the final round of an ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia tournament, Cooke believes there will be no added pressure come Sunday if he maintains his relaxed attitude.
“I reckon this is probably the first time coming into a final round or maybe even a second that I’ve lead,” added Cooke.
“It’s no different to if you’re second or third really, I’ve just got to play good golf tomorrow. It’s a nice feeling to know that my golf’s been good enough to get me to where I am.
“It doesn’t hurt being up the top. You’ve obviously got a shot or few ahead of the guys that have to chase you down.
“There might be a little bit of a banner there that you’ve got to perform but I’m pretty fine at the top. If you just let the golf do the talking then whatever happens, happens.”
In the three-year history of the SP PNG Open, two finals have resulted in a playoff with Brad Moules and Cory Crawford coming out on top in the 2016 and 2017 tournaments.
In 2019, Cooke wouldn’t be fazed if it came down to a playoff between him and another player on the 18th hole but insists he will aim for the outright lead on Sunday.
“I would probably enjoy it, whoever I would have to be in a playoff with or if that happened,” said Cooke.
“I’m sure the crowd would be around and it would be buzzing so the atmosphere would be awesome. I’d probably prefer to have a one-shot lead and knock it in for the win though.”
Keeping to his tournament routine has been key for Cooke who says his preparation will remain the same ahead of the final round.
“I’ll definitely go and hit a few balls and a few putts, the same as I’ve done for the last three days just to keep my feels in check with what I’ve been doing,” said Cooke at the conclusion of the third round.
“I’ll probably go to the gym tomorrow morning like I’ve been doing every morning. I won’t really change a thing. It’s obviously working so I’ll stick to the same thing.”
Once again grouped with Jack Wilson on course, Cooke has made the most of his first time in Papua New Guinea.
“It’s my first time here. I’ve been told by a lot of friends from home who have played this tournament to come up, that the course would suit me and that I’d enjoy it and so far it’s been nothing short of what they’ve said so it’s been great fun so far.”
The fourth and final round of the SP PNG Open tees off on Sunday morning at 9:10am at Royal Port Moresby Golf Club with the leaders hitting off at 11:00am.
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