Sydney: American Jordan Spieth shot a two-under-par 69 for a share of a one-stroke lead with locals Greg Chalmers and Brett Rumford after blustery conditions caused chaos in the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
Firm greens and difficult pin positions but most of all the gusting wind left Spieth, Chalmers (71) and Rumford (69) on five-under -- a leading score unchanged from Friday -- with only five other players below par for the tournament.
While Adam Scott was among them in a share of fourth with fellow Australian Rod Pampling after both shot 69s, Rory McIlroy suffered a spectacular mid-round collapse that saw the world number one drop five shots in two holes and finish with a 76.
"The course is on a razor`s edge as they are trying to create a golf course that`s as unplayable as they can get it without it being so and it`s right on that point," Rumford told reporters.
"It`s tough, I`m certainly not saying it`s easy, you seem as though you are pedalling a million miles an hour going no where."
Spieth described conditions as "brutal" and was pleased with his mix of five birdies and three bogeys, one of which came at the ninth hole when his approach shot hit the pin and bounced back off the green.
"The wind was flipping, it was tough to get the right yardage let alone the accuracy," he said.
"I felt like I really hung in there nicely. To grab five bogeys on a day like today, if I can do that tomorrow I think I will be in good shape."
World number three Scott snared his third birdie of the day when he sent a 25-foot putt snaking across the green at the 17th but would have gone even lower had his putter otherwise been working as well as his irons.
"It`s a tough day out there but I think I struck the ball very well, solid, so I didn`t feel like I was grinding," Scott said.
"A shame to miss a couple of short ones but made up for it on 17 with a long one."
Pampling fired the shot of the day with an iron from 120 metres for an eagle at the 10th and could have had a share of the lead had he not missed a three-foot birdie putt on the 18th.
McIlroy`s driving was to blame for his slump as he found thick scrub at the ninth for a triple bogey and went into the trees for a double bogey at the 10th to plummet down the leaderboard.
The Northern Irishman ended the day with a share of 14th on one-over but is still only six shots off the pace as he looks to defend the title he won last year.