After three straight rounds in the 60s at Royal Melbourne, Antonio Murdaca is officially 18 holes away from a date with Augusta National.
The 19-year-old Aussie shot a 5-under 67 during the third round of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, ballooning his lead to eight shots heading into the final round. The winner of the event receives a spot in the 2015 Masters, as well as an exemption into the final stage of qualifying for the 2015 Open Championship.
Murdaca is playing in the event for the first time, and barely qualified in the first place - he entered as the ninth-ranked Australian, with the host country receiving 10 spots in this week's field. He took a one-shot lead after 36 holes, then pulled away Saturday with a round that featured four birdies, one bogey and a tap-in eagle at the par-5 17th that put an exclamation point on his afternoon.
At 12 under, Murdaca leads by four shots over a trio of players: Chen Tsung-Pan, who finished second at this event in 2012, along with China's Jin Cheng and Australia's Todd Sinnott, who held the lead after the first round. Former champion Guan Tianlang, who was four shots off the pace through 36 holes, faded to eighth place after a 2-over 74 and will begin the final round 11 shots off the pace.
Murdaca, though, remains the man to beat, and he appears poised to become the first player from outside of Asia to win the event in its six-year history. After the round, he admitted to reporters that a potential trip down Magnolia Lane may be on his mind during the final round.
"Yes, I'm quite excited," Murdaca said. "I'm just going to come out tomorrow, same mindset as today, and hope I can have another great round."