Senden charges into Australian Open lead

DARREN WALTON
Last updated 19:11 08/12/2012
John Senden
Getty Images
LEADING THE WAY: John Senden leads the Australian Open after three rounds.

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A back-nine blitz has vaulted John Senden back into the outright lead after the third round of the Australian Open at the windswept Lakes layout in Sydney.

The first-round leader was plodding along just off the pace before igniting his round with a brilliant eagle three on the par-5 11th.

Senden followed up with successive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes en route to a two-under-par 70 to be seven-under the card for the championship and two shots clear.

The 2006 champion has a swag of players hot on his tail, though, heading into Sunday's final round.

English world No 4 Justin Rose, like day one, is Senden's closest pursuer but no doubt a tad disappointed after closing with back-to-back bogeys in an otherwise rock-solid 70.

On a high after his success at Qualifying School in the United States last week, Matt Jones (70) also eagled the 11th in an impressive round of 69 to share third place at four under with rookie Kieren Pratt (70) and veteran Peter Senior (69).

Rejuvenated 2001 champion Stuart Appleby (70), countryman Cameron Percy (72) and American Kyle Stanley (70) share sixth spot at three under.

Appleby briefly seized the lead before a back-nine stumble, but was nevertheless chuffed to be in the mix after a dreadful season in America.

"I feel like I'm coming back," Appleby said. "My game is definitely on the uptake.

"Mentally, I've really struggled the past year or more, nearly two years, to I guess believe in myself.'

Most of the field went backwards on Saturday, including halfway leader Marcus Fraser, whose 76 left him in a nine-way tie for ninth at two under.

Pre-tournament favourite Adam Scott is with Fraser five shots adrift of the lead after eking out his second successive 71.

The Australian Masters champion said he probably needed to fire a 65 on Sunday to lift the Stonehaven Cup for a second time.

Scott Gardiner (68) and teenage amateur Cameron Smith (69) both reeled off four consecutive birdies coming home to be at one under alongside defending champion Greg Chalmers (69).

But American great Tom Watson crashed out of contention after leaking shots everywhere in an ugly six-over 78.

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- AAP

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