Former winners Antonio Murdaca and Guan Tianlang experienced contrasting fortunes during the windswept third round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship (AAC) at The Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club.
Going out in the first group of the morning, Murdaca prospered in the blustery conditions on moving day, making six birdies in a blemish-free 64 to reach 7-under for the Championship – now within striking distance of the lead held by China’s Jin Cheng.
Guan, however, struggled. The 16-year-old from China, who wowed the golfing world by becoming the youngest player to make the cut at a major when he achieved the feat at the 2013 Masters Tournament, carded five bogeys and a double on his way to a 74.
“I think I hit 17 greens today and pretty much two-putted the lot of them,” said 20-year-old Murdaca, who blitzed his way to a seven-shot victory at The Royal Melbourne Golf Club 12 months ago. “It was a little frustrating not to have made more putts but overall I’m really happy with my round today.”
The powerfully built Australian, No. 50 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, made birdies on the four par 5s over the dramatic par-70 layout to give himself a chance on Sunday of following in the footsteps of two-time AAC champion Hideki Matsuyama by successfully defending his title.
“Hopefully I can go out and have a low one tomorrow,” said Murdaca. “I’m excited to be where I am.”
Despite sliding down the leader board into a share of 47th place, Guan, who at one point looked to be missing the cut after a poor start to his second round on Friday, said his scores hadn’t reflected his play.
“My long game wasn’t good today but I feel like I haven’t been playing too badly this week,” said Guan, who won the 2012 edition of the AAC, which was held at Amata Spring in Thailand. “It was really windy out there and I made a couple of bad swings, but I’m pretty happy with my short game.”
While Murdaca has eschewed the option of a college education and is expected to turn professional in the near future, Guan is in no rush to make the switch to the paid ranks, despite the huge media attention that came with his stunning performance at Augusta National Golf Club two years ago.
“At the time, turning pro was a possibility, but I decided against it – getting an education is important to me,” said Guan, who attends high school in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, a 90-minute train journey from Hong Kong. “I’m going to be looking at some colleges soon, but I don’t yet know whether I’ll stay in China or study in the States.”
Guan has played a limited schedule this year in order to focus on his studies, but once again experienced the pro game at first hand when he competed in January’s Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, a European Tour event, where he made the cut.
“I’ll probably make a decision about turning pro when I get to college,” said Guan, whose favourite school subjects include English and History. “But I’m in no hurry. I’ve got plenty of time.”