SYDNEY -- Australian John Senden had an eagle and two birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine Saturday and finished with a 2-under 70 for a two-stroke lead after three rounds of the Emirates Australian Open.
Senden, the 2006 champion, had a three-round total of 7-under 209 in tough, windy conditions at The Lakes Golf Course. This is the second straight year he has led after 54 holes at The Lakes.
Since its creation in 1904, the Australian Open has become Australia's most prestigious golf championship.
Englishman Justin Rose, who also shot 70, was in second place, followed by Australians Matthew Jones (69), Peter Senior (69) and Kieran Pratt (70) in a tie for third, three behind Senden. Pratt stole the outright lead with spectacular eagle at the 11th, but his stint at the top of the leaderboard ended on the very next hole with a bogey.
"I had a sluggish start with the hand brake on a bit, but once I got through three or four holes I was feeling good again," said Senden, who finished runner-up to Greg Chalmers last year at The Lakes. "It was a day of trying to do the best I can and stay in position."
Senden, who had led after the opening round, had to withstand a shaky start as he bogeyed his opening two holes to fall behind a cluster of seven players who briefly held the lead. But he made his charge on the back nine, producing an eagle on the par-5 11th and adding consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes.
"It was a day of just trying to do my best to stay up there and it's nice to be leading the golf tournament," Senden said. "I thought the last two holes were pretty much close to the edge – it was so windy out there it was hard to hit the ball straight."
World No. 4 Rose had two late bogeys to keep him from tying for the lead going into the final round. Like most players, he struggled with the gusty conditions and was apprehensive about a forecast repeat on Sunday.
"It was a difficult time out there," Rose said. "It's hard to even tap in from a few feet. 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 and I'd like to go out on a high note."
Stuart Appleby (70), fellow Australian Cameron Percy (72) and American Kyle Stanley (70) are in a share for sixth, four shots behind. Appleby briefly took the lead before a back-nine stumble, but was pleased to be within several shots of the lead.
"I feel like I'm coming back," Appleby said. "My game is definitely on the uptake. Mentally, I've really struggled the past year or more, nearly two years, to believe in myself."
Adam Scott shot his second consecutive 71 to put him in a group of nine tied at 214, five strokes behind. Included in that group was second-round leader Marcus Fraser of Australia, who shot 76.
Scott burst out of the blocks with consecutive birdies, but had given both shots back by the fifth hole to make the turn in level par. He mixed two bogeys and three birdies on the way home and will need something special on Sunday to claim his second Australian Open title.
Chalmers was six strokes behind Senden after a 69 and was level with Geoff Ogilvy (70).
Tom Watson, the 1984 Australian Open champion, had a 78 for the second time in three rounds, after shooting a sparkling 68 Friday to make the cut.
"It was ugly out there today for me, very ugly," Watson said immediately after his round. "I struggled on the practice area warming up, I didn't have any feel for the club and didn't put the clubface on the ball.
"I'm not blaming anything but I woke up at 3 o'clock this morning and couldn't go back to sleep and I'm jetlagged pretty good coming back from South Africa."