Marc Leishman leads early in the final round of the Australian PGA Championship.
Marc Leishman leads early in the final round of the Australian PGA Championship.Source: Getty Images

Ross McGowan has shot a course record 63 at Royal Pines to bolt into Australian PGA Championship contention and add some intrigue to what looked to be a two- horse race on the Gold Coast.

The Englishman raced from two-under to be clubhouse leader at 11-under and just three shy of new on-course leader Marc Leishman.

McGowan closed out his round while overnight leader and defending champion Cameron Smith endured a scratchy start to sit one shot behind Leishman after seven holes.

AUS PGA LIVE LEADERBOARD

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Cameron Smith has made his move in the shadows to burst clear of sparring partner Marc Leishman and get within reach of back-to-back Australian PGA Championships.

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Smith (14 under) spread five birdies across a mistake-free round of 67 in another controlled showing at Royal Pines on Saturday, while Leishman (69) did his best to keep up and finished three shots back in outright second.

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Contending youngsters Dimi Papadatos and Jake McLeod (both five under) faltered on a testing third day as they jostled for order of merit honours, leaving Matt Millar (seven under) tied with former champion Harold Varner III in third.

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Smith birdied the second hole and, despite settling for par when an eagle beckoned on the short par-4 eighth, birdied the next to remain an arm’s distance from his Australian World Cup teammate and playing partner Leishman.

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Leishman birdied the 10th but bogeyed the 11th and both men nailed their approaches to the 12th and left with birdies.

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But when Smith made a long birdie putt on the 13th, he had a three-shot lead, all while McLeod slowly lost pace with the lead group to drop four shots on his final eight holes.

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Braden Becker moved into calculations after carding 67 and returning to the clubhouse at six under, while Matthew Millar (seven under) did the same.

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Canberra product Millar’s five-under round earned him the early clubhouse lead and a Sunday pairing with Varner, whose mixed bag earned him a one-under round. Matt Jager and Ben Eccles are six under.

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– AAP

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A Cameron Smith masterclass has set up a dream Saturday pairing with Marc Leishman and brought his Australian PGA Championship defence to life on the Gold Coast.

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Smith systematically worked over Royal Pines in carding a seven-under 65 on Friday, moving him to nine-under for the tournament and one ahead of Leishman and Jake McLeod.

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Victorian Leishman replicated his Thursday 68, while Dimi Papadatos (seven- under) had briefly held the lead and will wage war with Saturday playing partner McLeod for the Order of Merit spoils.

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Like fellow overnight leader McLeod, West Australian Matt Jager didn’t fade and only a bogey on the last – after a birdie on the party hole 16th – separated him from the Townsville product.

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Smith took Friday’s honours though, mixing seven birdies with a bogey through his first 10 holes to wipe aside a frustrating first-day 70. While cursing himself for not getting to 10-under, Smith’s no-fuss showing has set up a showdown with a fellow Queenslander he knows well from their days on the junior representative scene.

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“Jakey and I, we’ve been in state teams together, fiddled around at home, QAS trainings, everything,” he said of the talent one year his junior. “Jakey’s a good boy, love playing with Jake.

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“There’s so many guys that I grew up playing with who were all really good and it’s good to see a few of them doing well.” Healthy crowds followed Smith and his playing partner Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston and were rewarded when the Englishman chipped in for a memorable birdie on the rowdy 16th party hole.

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Johnston saluted the bar and threw his ball into the crowd as his moved to five- under and into the conversation despite dropping to three-over after three holes and contemplating early retirement on Thursday.

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World No.21 Leishman was ominously rock solid again, avoiding disaster with a nice save over trees while balancing on the lakeside edge on the 12th. Overnight leader McLeod, who started the day six-under, birdied his first hole then exploded on the back nine with back-to-back birdies and a monster eagle putt to give him clean air at 11-under.

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The NSW Open winner, Order of Merit leader and Australian Open third place- getter followed with a bogey and then dropped two more shots when he narrowly went out of bounds on the 17th.

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Champion in 2016, Harold Varner III (seven-under) was the big early mover on Friday morning with three straight birdies.

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Play begins at 6.30am on Saturday, with Smith and Leishman to tee off in the last group at midday.

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