Once bitten, Senden keeps Open focus

JOHN Senden has won an Australian Open on the final day and lost one as well. So as he approaches the final round leading the field, he is well-versed and well-rehearsed on the agony and ecstasy of Sundays.

The 2006 champion led after the third round in last year's tournament but was ultimately overtaken by Greg Chalmers. Now, in 2012, he has a two-shot advantage over Englishman Justin Rose. The Australian Open is his to lose.

''I know where I stand,'' Senden said. ''I need to deal with that, come out [on Sunday] and play my game.

''[This is] why we are here. We want to be in the position to get the experience and know whether you can handle it. It is going to be a test but it is a test for every golfer. Sitting on the lead, it is a matter of doing the job and moving forward. I think the whole experience is why we play it.''

Last year, at the same course, Senden said nerves got the better of him as he carded four bogeys on the front nine in the final round. Despite birdies on the 11th, 13th, 14th and 17th holes, he could not force a play-off, finishing at 12-under, a shot back from Chalmers.

It is unlikely that such a score will be needed to win this year, though. Senden led after the first round this year at six-under, but has only picked up a shot in the two rounds that followed, with conditions troubling every golfer in the tournament.

Rose, the highest-ranked player in the field, has similarly only picked up one shot since Thursday's first round, having posted a four-under 68 on day one.

Marcus Fraser, who led after day two, posted a four-over round of 76 on Saturday to tie for ninth, at two-under for the tournament.

''It was a day of trying to do the best I can, to stay in position,'' Senden said. ''It is nice to be leading the tournament.

''The golf course is very dry. I would not say that it was on the edge but it was quite windy out there. It is tough to keep the ball straight in the air. I was happy to handle it reasonably well and feel good. You have to be able to control the ball any time you play golf, but in these conditions you have to be really on your game.''

Rose appeared set to begin Sunday's final round on even terms with Senden, but two bogeys to finish spoilt his Saturday.

''It got progressively tougher as the day went on,'' said Rose, who shot 70. ''Towards the end of the round it was tough even to tap in.''

But Rose said the windy conditions meant that one or two strokes meant little.

''The last man standing could win the golf tournament,'' he said. ''I think it is going to be a battle. I've gotten to know the golf course over the past couple of days. I'm excited. As long as it does not get out of control and blow too hard, it is going to be a fun day to try and hit some shots. It will be my last round for the year. I'd like to go out on a high note.''

In front of him, for now, is Senden, in the form of his life, but who knows as much as anyone that leading at The Lakes into the final day doesn't guarantee anything. ''There is a long way to go,'' Senden said.

This story Once bitten, Senden keeps Open focus first appeared on WA Today.