The World Super 6 Perth’s format is designed to produce excitement and surprises. And the tournament delivered both in spades during Saturday’s third round, which ended with Prom Meesawat as the stroke play winner.
Overnight leaders, and fancied chances, Lee Westwood and Brett Rumford both battled their games and the windy Perth conditions during the third round. With the duo signing for matching rounds of 78 that dropped them below the all-important 24th place that qualifies players for Sunday’s match play.
“Just a long day. It was a five-hour ten-minute game of golf,” Rumford said. “We just waited all day. Hard to get any kind of rhythm or momentum or anything out there. Just a tiring day. The wind gradually got up, by about our fifth or sixth hole it was blowing pretty good.
“I just didn’t control my golf ball as well as I should have done.”
While Rumford struggled with the conditions, pace of play and a lack of any momentum, Westwood blamed his poor putting, which he attributed to mis-reading rather than his stroke.
“I feel like I rolled it well today, but you know, it's just not doing what I think it's going to do,” Westwood said. “It was tough to read these greens as well, tough to adjust front nine to back nine. I'm going to put it down to that.”
The third member of the final group, Thorbjorn Olesen, faired far better. Firing a three under 69 to secure a tie for second place, alongside Lucas Herbert and American Sean Crocker, and a bye through the first round of the six-hole matches.
“I came right out of the block and played well, especially the first few holes,” Olesen said after his round. “It's always nice to start well, especially when it's this windy and it's very tricky. So a few bad shots on the back nine and a few bad putts, but that's easy to do when it's this windy.”
The Dane, who won the Perth International around Lake Karrinyup in 2014, has a slight advantage over much of the field as the style of play changes for Sunday’s final round. Olesen claiming the inaugural Golf Sixes trophy alongside Lucas Bjerregaard in 2017, which saw teams representing country’s take part in six hole matches.
“Obviously, I had a nice partner there, now I'm on my own,” he said. “I think I'm a pretty good match player. I'm a good putter, I drive the ball well, so that's two key things in match play, so hopefully I can go out there and drain a few putts.
“I don't mind it being windy, if I can just stay focused and stay concentrated, and normally I play well in the wind so I wouldn't mind that.”
While Olesen is confident when it comes to match play, having competed in the format so recently, Meesawat, who earnt himself an extra $25,000 for topping the 54-hole stroke play competition, was less sure. With his most recent match play experience an almost distant memory.
“2007, long time ago,” Meesawat said recalling his last match. “I had a playoff a couple times, but it's not like 18 hole or six-hole match play. It's going to be fun, I'll tell you tomorrow is going to be good fun.
“I'm going to try to be like Rummy, he finished first and then winning the tournament, so that's what my goal.”
Meesawat, or the ‘Big Dolphin’ as he is known to much of the Thai media, is a proven winner on the Asian Tour. With plenty of previous experience in Europe, where he could spend even more time if he manages to accomplish his goal and follow in Rumford’s footsteps in winning the tri-sanctioned event.
“It means a lot. I'm going to earn my European Tour card and it's going to be the first win for me on the European Tour, yeah,” he said when asked what a win would do for him. “Just going to go out and have fun, concentrate with my game.”
Like Olesen, the 33-year-old is hoping the wind is up again for Sunday’s match play.
“I like to play with the wind, I like to playing like everybody like playing the tough finishing. This is the way how you measure your game, how you manage your shot it works for me.”
Playing alongside Meesawat, Herbert held the lead on his own at multiple times on Saturday before eventually signing for a three-under 69. An impressive score for the Victorian, who struggled with his game during the third round but managed to once again display his new found on-course maturity.
“Again, another round that was pretty average,” Herbert said after round three. “Hit it pretty poorly off the tee, to be fair. Sort of found a little bit on the back nine there to be able to close it out the way I did. Yeah, just really pleasing that the quality of game I've got, put me tied for second after stroke play.”
Unlike Meesawat, Herbert has some recent match play experience having made the top-24 in 2017 and at 22 is not long removed from his amateur career, where players compete in match play on a far more regular basis than in the paid ranks.
“I lost first round last year, so it will be interesting to sort of work out a bit of a plan tonight and then hopefully execute tomorrow morning,” Herbert said.
Crocker matched Meesawat’s round of 67 to enter the match play as one of the real unknowns, but like Herbert the American has played amateur golf more recently than most of his competition and clearly enjoys Australia, recording a tie for 7th on his last visit to the country for the 2017 Australian PGA Championship.
“I really enjoy the golf course. It suits well to my eye off the tee, which helps, and when I'm driving it well, it makes it a little bit easier to score and hit shots closer out here,” Crocker said. “I love match play, I think it's the best thing. It's one of the only times in golf where you're head to head with someone unless you're coming down the stretch, so it's fun to play match play.”
The final spot in the match play went to Meesawat’s countryman and crowd favourite, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who required four extra trips down the 18th hole with Australian Anthony Quale to finally gain a place in the match play.
The sudden-death playoff began with eight players competing for nine spots, with the Thai star and Northern Territorian the only players making scores worse than par, relegating them to a one-on-one battle that lasted another three trips down the last. Before Aphibarnrat finally secured the spot with a par four.
Of the 24 match play contestants 11 are Australian, all hoping to emulate Rumford, with his fellow West Australian Min Woo Lee the only amateur to make the final day’s play and Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira (No.37) the highest player on the world rankings remaining.
Perhaps inspired by sister Minjee’s win at last week’s Vic Open, the 19-year-old Lee would face a difficult choice if he were to add yet another surprise to the 2018 event and claim the title, with a European Tour card on offer to the winner.
“I know all these guys can play so as long as I play good golf in the six holes, or whatever holes, hopefully it goes my way,” Lee said after finishing at six-under in a tie for 11th. “Whatever happens tomorrow, you made the top-24 in a European tour tournament, so happy days, and hopefully I can win matches tomorrow and see how I go.”
As the event enters Sunday with many of the big names failing to qualify and the unpredictability of the six-hole match play, the World Super 6 Perth is now well and truly anyone’s. Crocker perhaps best summing up the format that will decide the tournament’s second champion and more than likely deliver at least one more surprise.
“It's different because usually in match play you've got 18 holes and there's a lot of ups and downs, but with six holes, it seems whoever gets off to the hot start's probably going to win the match.”