MELBOURNE, Australia — Sampson Zheng shot a 6-under 65 at Royal Melbourne on Saturday despite gusting winds to take a four-stroke lead into the final round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur.
Chinese player Zheng’s three-round total of 3-under 210 was the only score under par in the tournament which awards the winner an invitation to the 2024 Masters and a spot in next year’s Open at Royal Troon, along with being exempt from qualifying for The Amateur.
Zheng, who started the day six strokes behind and tied for 13th, set an amateur Composite Course record at Royal Melbourne.
Zheng broke the amateur record of 66 held by Sir Michael Bonallack, whom the trophy is named after, for 55 years and matched earlier this week by New Zealand’s Kazuma Kobori.
“I just kept myself really patient,” Zheng said. “I used the contours of the greens well. It felt like I was on a different golf course today. One of those days.”
Australian Billy Dowling shot 73 and was in second place at 1-over 214. Tied for third, five strokes behind Zheng, were first-round leader Kobori, who shot 74 Saturday, and second-round co-leader Wenyi Ding of China, who had a third-round 76.
“I said to my caddie that if anyone shot under par today that’s a really good round,” said Dowling. “Then he told me someone shot six or seven under. That’s probably the best round they’ve ever shot.”
Zheng had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys on the Royal Melbourne composite course that was last used for international competition at the 2019 Presidents Cup.
One of Zheng’s birdies came on the 300-meter (330-yard) par-4 13th hole when he drove to just off the right of the green and two-putted for a three.
“To be able to shoot 65 like I did in the conditions like this today where everyone else is not having the best, it feels even more special,” Zheng said. “I just keep reminding myself the job’s not done and I have 18 holes to play tomorrow. I’m a little nervous but I’m feeling pretty good.”