RIVIERA MAYA, Mexico (September 24, 2016) -- Curtis Luck fired a 63 and Cameron Davis added a 68, both bogey-free rounds, and Australia took a nearly insurmountable 16-stroke lead after 54 holes with a team score of 32-under-par 398 in the 30th World Amateur Team Championship (WATC) at the par-72, 6,888-yard/6,386-meter Iberostar Playa Paraiso Golf Club.
Luck, the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion, made nine birdies to match the fourth-lowest round in WATC history and the Australians’ three-round total was one off the championship record set by the USA in 2014. Davis had an opportunity to tie record but missed a 6½-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead, but it’s exciting to be in the hunt,” said Australian captain Matt Cutler, whose country could win its fourth Eisenhower Trophy and first since 1996. “To be quite considerably ahead is a great position to be, but we are excited about the prospect of what could occur.”
Luck, who posted two non-counting scores in the opening two rounds as just two of three-man team scores are used toward the total each day, birdied his first hole when he stuck a 9-iron within 2 feet. He later made a 14-foot putt for birdie on No. 8 and converted another one on the next hole for a 5-under 31 on the outward nine. Luck would hit a lob wedge to tap-in-range on No. 10 and birdied both par 5s coming home.
“I had a good day at the office,” said Luck, who became the third Australian to win the U.S. Amateur last month. “I felt like I let the team down a bit yesterday shooting even par and the boys obviously having good scores. It was great to come out, put a good round together and a 63 looks really nice on the scoreboard.”
Davis, who was this year’s Brabazon Trophy runner-up, shot his third consecutive round in the 60s and is the low individual at 14-under for the championship. He had three birdies on the inward nine as his team equaled the third-largest 54-hole lead in WATC annals and matched the second-lowest third-round score (131).
“The guys are all experienced players and could go out there tomorrow without any advice,” said Cutler about looking forward to the final round. “I don’t think you change what has got you here.”
Ireland moved into second place at 16-under par after registering a third-round 135. Jack Hume, a member of the victorious 2015 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup Team, turned in a 6-under 66 and teammate Paul McBride had a 69. Hume reeled off six birdies for a 30 on the inward nine. He delivered a sand wedge to within 4 feet at No. 10 and ended that stretch by hitting a 8-iron to within 7 feet at the par-4 18th.
“We’re not thinking about a medal just yet, there is still a bit of work to do,” said Irish captain Tony Goode. “Tomorrow is the important round, the fourth quarter as they say in American football, so we’ll have to put something together for the last quarter. The boys are up for it, they’re on good form.”
Scottie Scheffler shot a 69 and Maverick McNealy carded a 71 as the USA was one behind Ireland in third place at 15-under 415. The Americans were eight strokes back of Australia to begin the round but failed to keep pace early on. Scheffler rallied his team with birdies on three of his last five holes. He got up and down on the par-5 16th and sank a 20-footer from the fringe on No. 17.
“I just started building some confidence,” said Scheffler, a junior at the University of Texas and who was paired with Luck. “In the beginning of my rounds I am not playing my game and kind of doubting myself. Watching Curtis make so many birdies helped me out a bit. I was watching good shots all day.”
England, Austria and Poland are tied for fourth at 13-under. Alfie Plant, of England, made four of his five birdies on the inward nine in recording a 5-under 67. Scott Gregory, who won the 2016 Amateur Championship at Royal Porthcawl, had a 70.
“It was a nice back nine,” said Plant, who was last year’s English Amateur runner-up. “On the front nine, I wasn’t holing anything and it was quite frustrating. Then the putts starting rolling in and it got better.”
Austria’s Michael Ludwig and Matthias Schwab each shot 3-under 69s. Ludwig’s round included four birdies and three bogeys and an eagle at the par-4 seventh when he holed a 93-yard approach shot from the rough.
“I decided to hit a 3-wood from the tee today and it was a bit too long.” said Ludwig, who used a 58-degree sand wedge to make his eagle. “I pushed it a bit and it was straight on the flag. It pitched and went it on the second bounce and I was really surprised.”
Poland will be searching for its first top-10 World Amateur Team finish in the final round. Adrian Meronk, who is a playing captain, posted an under-par round for the third straight day with a 2-under 70 and Mateuz Gradecki matched that score. The two players are competing in their third WATC together and were teammates at East Tennessee State University.
New Zealand, Norway, Thailand and Spain are tied for seventh at 11-under-par 419. A pair of teenagers are leading the way for Thailand as Kousuke Hamamoto, 17, and Sadom Keawkanjana, 18, each turned in 3-under 69s.
Playing in the morning wave, Canada improved its standing 12 places with an 8-under 136 and is now tied for 11th. Hugo Bernard, the 2016 Canadian Amateur champion, carded a 66, while Garrett Rank, who works as a National Hockey League game official, had a 70. Bernard birdied three of the four par 3s. He struck an 8-iron to within 8 feet at No.8 and hit a three-quarter pitching wedge to set up another birdie at No. 15.
“He’s a wonderful iron player,” said Doug Roxburgh, who has served as the Canadian captain seven times. “I have only seen him hit a couple of irons that were not directly at the pin. He’s a big, strong guy who takes advantage of his length.”
Twenty-nine of the 71 teams had 54-hole scores that were under par. The field recorded 50 sub-par individual counted scores in the third round, the second-highest total in WATC history.
The WATC is a biennial international amateur competition conducted by the International Golf Federation (IGF), which comprises 147 national governing bodies in 141 countries and 22 professional members.
The competition, which is being held for the 30th time, is rotated among three geographic zones: Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Europe-Africa. This year’s event is being hosted by the Mexican Golf Federation. The teams will play for the Eisenhower Trophy.