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Varner shares Australian PGA lead with South African pair


Golf ball

Golf ball

American Harold Varner III and South African duo Dylan Frittelli and Zander Lombard jostled in a three-way tie for the third round lead in the European Tour co-sanctioned Australian PGA Championship on Saturday.

Varner produced the day’s best round, a bogey-free six-under-par 66, to rocket into tournament contention at Royal Pines.

But to have any chance of securing his first tournament win as a professional, the 25-year-old from Akron, Ohio, will need to see off around five others still in with a winning chance.

At the top of that list are Frittelli and Lombard, two rising stars of South African golf, who both shot third rounds of one-under 71.

“We’re very good friends but we haven’t had an opportunity to play together a lot,” said Lombard, whose third-round highlight was a chip in for a birdie on the tough par-three 16th.

Lombard, 20, led the field after the opening round on five-under and said he was surprised his current score was good enough to put him in front.

“Nobody expects to move backwards and stay in the lead, but the course is really playing hard,” he said.

Varner has earned a spot on the PGA Tour for the new season, becoming the first African-American player to do so from the Tour platform.

Motivated to come to Australia to help round off his game, Varner had his share of luck — he hit the spectators’ stand with his approach on the final hole, but managed to recover for par.

Along with fourth-placed Australian Nathan Holman, who is two shots adrift, they are the only players left below par, testament to the difficult windy conditions and the uncompromising nature of the Royal Pines course.

Overnight leader David Lingmerth had a day to forget.

The Swede started his third round with a one-shot buffer, but double-bogeyed par fours 10 and 13 to slip back to even par for the tournament and three shots off the pace.

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