Matt finishes with a flourish to complete stunning Oman comeback
Oman, February 17: Matthew Southgate produced a remarkable comeback during a rollercoaster round on moving day at the NBO Oman Open, the Englishman storming into a three-stroke lead early on before dropping four shots in four holes and then battling to regain those four shots for a share of the third round lead.
The 29 year old, who overcame testicular cancer in 2015, carded a three under 69 but he took an unusual route to that score, starting like a steam train as he birdied the opening three to move clear of the pack.
A bogey on the fourth was soon followed by another dropped shot on the sixth and then a double-bogey at the par five seventh. He showed incredible courage, however, as he birdied the ninth to reach the turn in level par before picking up three more shots on the way home – including holing an 18-footer for birdie at the last – to move to a 12 under total.
He joined Joost Luiten of the Netherlands and Julien Guerrier of France at the top as they both signed for rounds of 66 to set up in intriguing finale in the inaugural edition of the event. Chris Wood was a shot further back despite finishing bogey-bogey while Spaniard Adrian Otaegui was out on his own in fifth place on nine under.
Matthew Southgate said: “My scorecard does tell the story of my day. It was quite funny really, we birdied the ninth and I walked off and said to my caddie Gary, ‘that was nine pars Gaz, I don’t know what you’re talking about’.
“He laughed and I said, ‘I’m serious, we can create any outcome that we want in our mind and we’ve just shot level par for nine holes so let’s just pretend that we’ve made nine solid pars, that we haven’t holed a putt, haven’t made a birdie and let’s just start again on the tenth’.
“That’s exactly what we did and we executed the gameplan and I’ve got a 69 on the card, so it was a good day’s work.
“Things were great early on, I was very calm, very relaxed. I was happy to see my putt at the first go in because the greens are very pace-sensitive out there and Matthieu (Pavon) hit his first putt seven or eight feet past and it would have been very easy for me to read too much into that and come up short. But I floated in a perfect putting pace ad thought, ‘this is good’.
“At four I was just trying to play safe and run up a five. I thought I’d hit two good shots but it just crept over the green – it’s one of those ones where you think, ‘I’ve almost hit that second shot too good’. You can’t beat yourself up for hitting shots too good.
“Obviously the seven at the seventh was ugly and I did really well mentally – I can beat myself up a lot on the golf course, I’ve got a bit of a temper – but to come off that, go onto the eighth and get back playing was really impressive, for me looking at myself. I’m chuffed with that.
“The birdie at nine was big. It takes a big heart to hit shots like that because a part of you wants to go and hide in a corner and cry. People say to you, keep going, but I’m not going to walk in! You can do two thigs, you can hide behind your caddie ad sulk and knock it around in level or over par, or you can take it on the chin, rise up to the challenge and try to hit good golf shots.
“That’s something I’m really of proud of having done today because it’s very hard to get out there and keep going but that was definitely a turning point at nine.
“The birdie at the 18th was lovely. Obviously I slipped on the tee yesterday, straight into the water but today I couldn’t have hit a three wood any harder.
“Obviously I’m really excited but I’m not somebody who is going to get too excited before it happens – I’m going to try and enjoy the rest of this day first. I’m a pretty emotional guy and this means the world to me to be up the top of the leaderboard.
“I’d love to get a win over the line but ultimately I need to learn everything I can moving forwards. I think that’s really important tomorrow – to be open minded enough that whatever the outcome, we’ve got to take new things on board and realise that this might be a position that we might end up in a few more times, maybe this season or the rest of my career so that’s the goal – hit good shots, make good decisions but learn stuff as well.”
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