Geary leads challenge to Murray in NZ Open

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Australian rookie Zach Murray saw his New Zealand Open lead whittled down to one stroke yesterday as Josh Geary fronted a charging pack in the third round at Queenstown.

New Zealand’s Geary sank eight birdies and an eagle in a sizzling round of 63 at Millbrook Resort to go 16 under for the tournament.

Murray, who started the day five clear after rounds of 63 and 65, struggled with his putter until finding his touch with birdies on the last two holes to retain his lead at 17 under.

But he said the pressure was good for him and it showed when he briefly slipped behind Geary.

“It was nice to be a couple back going into those last few holes because it helped me get back that aggressive mindset,” Murray said.

“I was battling my way through and felt a little frustrated, but I just calmed down and finished nice. I’ll definitely take a one-shot lead and I’m really excited. Tomorrow (Sunday) should be fun.”

Geary went into the third round eight behind Murray but opened with consecutive birdies to start immediately working into the deficit.

The 34-year-old said “something pretty special” was needed to catch up with Murray, who had played steady golf through the first two days.