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Popovic faces huge battle to hold nerve, says Jones

Date

David Polkinghorne

Daniel Popovic plays a shot on the 13th hole.

Daniel Popovic plays a shot on the 13th hole. Photo: Bradley Kanaris

BRENDAN JONES knows exactly how Australian PGA Championship leader Daniel Popovic would have felt on Saturday night going into the final's day play on the verge of his first big win.

Popovic, who grew up in Canberra before moving to Melbourne, was 13-under after shooting a three-under 69 in the third round, leading second-placed Anthony Brown by two shots.

Canberran Jones came in five-under the card to be four shots behind Popovic and equal fifth with 18 holes remaining.

Brendan Jones is tied for fifth.

Brendan Jones is tied for fifth. Photo: Bradley Kanaris

Matthew Millar was also still in contention a further two shots behind Jones.

Jones can remember being in exactly the same position as Popovic and the mental battle of trying not to think about the day ahead before it happens.

He played the final round over and over again in his head, worrying about the holes he had struggled with in the first three rounds. It's something only experience can prevent.

Jones said Popovic had drained ''every putt he looked at'' and questioned whether he'd be able to keep that up with the pack chasing him on the final day.

''You can't keep doing that day after day and he's never been in this situation so you'd think that it's all going to be a new thing,'' Jones said. ''He's handled things quite well the last couple of days, but tomorrow the tournament's on the line and it will be a big change for him.''

Despite shooting five-under, Jones was unhappy with his putting. He felt he'd let plenty of opportunities slip and could've been in an even better position going into the final round.

After a sensational front nine where he'd nailed five birdies, Jones three-putted the par-three 11th to drop a shot.

A bogey on the 18th was a bad way to finish. But he's only four shots off the leader - a leader with limited experience of dealing with the glare of the media spotlight.

Jones felt if he could get his putting working on Sunday he'd be a chance of going one better than his second-place finish at last weekend's Australian Open.

''I had a lot more chances and I could've been a lot closer to the lead, maybe even leading if things had've gone my way,'' he said.

''I feel like I've left a few out on the golf course, but I'm sure everybody's thinking the same thing.

''I just don't think I've putted well enough compared to the other players that are up near the top of the leaderboard.

''If I can have a good putting day tomorrow then there's no reason I can't be in contention again.''

Similarly to Jones, Millar started well but finished on a low.

The Canberra product is tied for 13th, but could have been much higher but for back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes.

Without them he would have been level with Jones on nine-under.

Christopher Campbell had a horror round of six-over and is 20 shots off the lead.

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