Golf: Monty stalking the local heroes

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The Independent Online
NEVER MIND his exhausting season in Europe chasing his seventh successive Order of Merit. Nor the Ryder Cup. Nor the World Match Play. Colin Montgomerie has still not tired of winning tournaments or playing spectacular golf in 1999. A five-under-par round of 67 has left Scotland's finest poised to add the Australian Open to his haul of titles this year.

Mind you, even he was forced to concede some of the limelight at the Royal Sydney golf club to one of Australia's own. Greg Norman, at the fine age of 44, shot his lowest round for 21 years - a course record-equalling eight-under 64 - to throw open the possibility of a sixth national championship.

But he will have to overcome a determined looking Montgomerie if he is going to do it. The Scot went into the last round just one stroke behind the leader, the tournament's surprise packet, 18-year-old Australian amateur Aaron Baddeley.

The Scot has worked his way through the field after trailing by eight shots following Thursday's first round. "I've got one more round to play and I am looking forward to it," he said after five birdies in his penultimate round. "I am hitting the ball very well off the tee, my irons are good to the greens and if I hole the necessary amount of putts tomorrow I should be right there.

"But you can never tell, if someone goes out and shoots a low score tomorrow that's it. There's a bunched-up leaderboard and someone out of the top eight or 10 players is going to have a good day - I just hope it's me."

Montgomerie said the Australian Open was once classified as a fifth major and it had a big reputation in world golf. "Now I'm in contention it's important that I go forward, and don't look back: a seventh or eighth finish isn't what I'm looking for here, I want to win this title."

Norman moved into contention with a remarkable third round which left him two strokes behind the leader. Jack Nicklaus has won six Australian Opens and Norman said a repeat of today's 64 would guarantee him victory in Sunday's final round to put him on a par with the legendary American.

"This is very encouraging for me. I really haven't put a solid tournament together since I came back where I've played four consistent rounds, so I'm working my way up the ladder," he said.

"It's nice to see that I'm shooting low scores again. I know I'm capable of doing that and it feels good to do it again. I'm right on track to the way I want to return progressively."

The leading Englishman was Anthony Wall, four shots off the lead, although a par 72 saw him fall back in the field. But there was less good news for Nick Faldo. The six-times major champion had started the week well, and appearing high up the leaderboard half-way through the second round. But that turned into a disappointing 74, and he followed it with a one- over third round of 73.