Local knowledge paid dividends for 2015 champion Matt Jones who held a three shot buffer from American Cameron Tringale after the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
Playing in far less smoke haze from bushfires surrounding Sydney than in the opening two days — where players complained of stinging eyes — overnight leader Jones held his nerve to hit a 68 to be 13-under for the tournament.
It left the Australian, who has won twice on the PGA Tour, but not since 2015, three clear of Tringale, who birdied the last for a 69 to ensure outright second place.
English world number 14 Paul Casey, exciting Japanese amateur Takumi Kanaya and South African Presidents Cup player Louis Oosthuizen were all lurking dangerously four off the pace.
Australian Jamie Arnold had the round of the day at the Australian Golf Club in Sydney, stroking a seven-under-par 64 to be five behind Jones.
“The pins were tough to get to today but some local knowledge helped me,” said Jones, who mixed five birdies with two bogeys.
“The course was playing difficult, the wind was tough. But I very calm out there. I was comfortable and excited to play.
“I’ll draw on my experience from winning it here in 2015 tomorrow, most definitely,” he added.
Four years ago, Jones won by a shot from Adam Scott, who missed the cut this year, and American Jordan Spieth, who at the time was one of the best players in the world.
Oosthuizen, part of the Presidents Cup International team that will face the Tiger Woods-led Americans in Melbourne next week, made birdies at the third and the fifth to jump into the early lead, but bogeys on eight and 12 derailed his momentum.
Casey, who is chasing a third win of the year, also briefly topped the leaderboard but a painful double bogey on the ninth saw him fall back into the chasing pack.
A birdie on the last ensured he stayed in touch.
Kanaya, the world’s top amateur, also remained in contention and like Jones noted that the pin placements were tricky.
“I wanted to be aggressive today but it was difficult with the pin placements, so I played a little bit safer,” he said.
“Matt Jones is a great player I know, but I have little bit of a chance (on Sunday).”