NZ golfers stalking Papadatos at the NZ Open

FRED WOODCOCK IN ARROWTOWN
Last updated 20:09 01/03/2014
Mark Brown
PHIL WALTER/ Getty
LEADING KIWI: Mark Brown.

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Unlike 15 months ago, when Mark Brown had to do it solo, he has plenty of fellow Kiwis in contention to win the New Zealand Open tomorrow.

The Wellington pro heads into the final round at The Hills at 11-under par, one shot behind the little-known leader from Australia, 22-year-old Dimi Papadatos.

Alongside Brown is second round co-leader Richard Lee, the Auckland pro who had a steady two-under 70 today to move to 11-under. Australian Ashley Hall, a regular on the second-tier Web.com Tour in the US, is fourth at 10-under par.

Wellington left-hander Gareth Paddison, who had a six-under 66 to get to nine-under par, ended the day with the same tally as rookie Tauranga professional Kieran Muir (67) and the local pro at The Hills, Craig Palmer, who fired in nine birdies in a seven-under 65.

Palmer is a great story. He's only playing in the tournament after getting a tournament invite as the local pro here at The Hills. One thing he does have is local knowledge and he's using every bit of that advantage.

Also not out of the tournament, if they could go low, is Aucklander Ryan Fox - with father Grant on the bag - and Te Anau's David Klein. They are at eight-under par.

Brown started the day four shots back at five-under par and didn't get going till the back nine at The Hills. But when he did, it was spectacular.

The former European Tour winner is arguably the best ball-striker and smoothest swinger in New Zealand but his putter hasn't always behaved.

It did today, as he charged with an eagle and three birdies from the 13th to 16th holes, only to make a really bad swing at the par-five 17th and walk off with double bogey. Still, he bounced back with a birdie at 18, with a great approach from the right rough, and that's given him plenty of confidence.

Brown gets another shot for glory after he led by three shots heading into the final round at Clearwater 15 months ago, only to shoot a one-over 73 and be overtaken by Australian Jake Higginbottom, then an amateur.

Lee didn't rate his round today, and reckons he hasn't played that well all week. But the Japan Tour pro, 40, is a seasoned veteran and is capable of going low, as he did when shooting 59 at the 2010 Charles Tour's Tauranga Open.

Papadatos is unknown but has some form playing in the spotlight at big tournaments. He did so at the $2 million Perth International last year, playing alongside American Bo Van Pelt and Dane Soren Hansen, and ended up finishing third.

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"I did quite well so there is no reason why I can't do it again," he said in reference to winning the $850,000 PGA Tour of Australasia event.

 LEADERBOARD

-12 Dimi Papadatos (Aus)

-11 Mark Brown (NZ), Richard Lee (NZ)

-10 Ashley Hall (Aus)

-9 Kieran Muir (NZ), Gareth Paddison (NZ), Craig Palmer (NZ), Adam Bland (Aus)

-8 David Klein (NZ), Ryan Fox (NZ), Cameron Smith (Aus), Terry Pilkadaris (Aus), Matt Jager (Aus), Adam Blyth (Aus), Soon Sang Hong (Korea)

-7 Daniel Fox (Aus)

- Fairfax Media

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