The top eight qualifiers through 54 holes of stroke play have earned a direct path through to round two and the final 16 with Blake Windred and Brett Rankin securing a spot in the top eight in a playoff that consigned Bryden Macpherson to ninth spot.
Macpherson and the remaining qualifiers now need to win five six-hole matches to take the title with Justin Warren, Michael Wright, Cory Crawford, David Bransdon and Rick Kulacz having to make their way past a seven-for-five playoff to qualify for the match play.
Rather than traditional match play, each match will be played as a six-hole aggregate stroke match across the first, eight, second, 16th, 17th and 18th holes at Yallourn Golf Club and Lawson knows given the quality in the field it is now well and truly anyone’s tournament to win.
“The guys who played just OK today and scraped into the 24, they’re going into tomorrow feeling like they’re starting again,” said Lawson.
“Any of the 24 guys now could win, where if it was over four rounds there are probably only three or four guys who could win.
“If I was the guy in 24th spot I’d be feeling bloody great. I’ve just snuck in, let’s start again. The guy who has finished eighth is probably feeling the best. He’s four back but he’s now in the exact same position as me.
“It’s exciting for anyone watching tomorrow because genuinely anyone can win.”
One of those danger players is prolific PGA Pro-Am Series winner Tim Hart, who along with Kiwi Daniel Hillier equalled the course record set by Lawson in round one of 8-under 64 on Saturday.
Five times a top-five finisher in ISPS HANDA PGA Tour of Australasia events, the Queenslander couldn’t deny the significance of a potential breakthrough win and how he intends to go about it.
“It’s going to be foot to the floor and try and make as many birdies as I can,” said Hart, who faces a tough assignment first-up against Japan Golf Tour regular David Bransdon.
“(Winning) is definitely something that’s on my mind. I won’t let it consume my mind but it’s definitely there.
“I’ve got to get through the first few rounds to even start thinking about that sort of stuff.
“It’s definitely a course and a format that I feel pretty comfortable in. I like my chances tomorrow to make a run.”
Perhaps the only player in the final 24 who knows exactly what to expect heading into tomorrow’s final round is New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier.
Tied for third at the completion of the stroke play, Hillier can now call upon his experience of winning the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Super 6’s at Manawatu Golf Club in March last year.
“We just brought the same format in back home in New Zealand which I managed to play quite well at,” said Hillier, who will play the winner of the Chang Gi Lee v Dimitrios Papadatos match.
“I’ll take the same approach that I’ve had all week. Relatively aggressive. Nothing stupid but enough to give me some really good chances if I’m hitting the ball well off the tee.
“Keep doing that and then hopefully if I shoot well I’ll be in that final match.”
Twice a starter in the WGC-World Match Play in 2013 and 2016, Marcus Fraser also secured a bye in the first round with a round of 6-under 66 on Saturday and knows that a conservative approach won’t cut it on Sunday.
“You’re going to have to be aggressive. Over six holes, if you try and play cautiously at some point it’s going to catch you out,” Fraser said, headed for a showdown with either Andrew Martin or Cory Crawford in round two.
“You’re going to have to be aggressive and even if you’re out of position try and salvage a par somehow and limit the damage. If you make a double bogey in six holes you’re pretty much gone I’d think.
“There’s going to be a bit of strategy to it but you’re going to have to be aggressive for sure.”
A three-time winner on the China Golf Tour in 2019, Queensland’s Maverick Antcliff looked an unlikely qualifier early in his third round but played his final nine holes in 6-under 30 to qualify 11th and remain in the hunt.
“Match play is totally different,” said Antcliff following his 7-under 65, drawn to play wily veteran Michael Wright in round one.
“If you can hit fairways and greens and apply pressure, obviously if they hit a few loose ones or they’re out of position it gets a little bit trickier with the greens being hard and fast. Just applying pressure through good golf and take it from there.
“You can make a lot of birdies out here so there should be some good matches. All of these guys are good players so you’ve just got to beat whoever is in front of you to make the final.”
Two-time World Match Play champion Geoff Ogilvy failed to advance after a 2-over 74 on Saturday with Blitz Golf Glenelg winner Matthew Millar, Champions Tour regular David McKenzie and defending champion Tom Power Horan also falling just short.
Round 1 matches AEDT
Match 1 (7.15am) Daniel Gale v Charlie Dann
Match 2 (7.23am) Bryden Macpherson v Rick Kulacz
Match 3 (7.31am) Andrew Martin v Cory Crawford
Match 4 (7.39am) Josh Younger v Justin Warren
Match 5 (7.47am) Chang Gi Lee v Dimitrios Papadatos
Match 6 (7.55am) Maverick Antcliff v Michael Wright
Match 7 (8.03am) Tim Hart v David Bransdon
Match 8 (8.11am) Alessandro Noseda v Ben Eccles
Round 2 matches
Match 9 (9.05am) Deyen Lawson v Winner of Match 1
Match 10 (9.15am) Blake Windred v Winner of Match 2
Match 11 (9.25am) Marcus Fraser v Winner of Match 3
Match 12 (9.35am) Terry Pilkadaris v Winner of Match 4
Match 13 (9.45am) Daniel Hillier v Winner of Match 5
Match 14 (9.55am) Peter Cooke v Winner of Match 6
Match 15 (10.05am) Brett Rankin v Winner of Match 7
Match 16 (10.15am) Jason Norris v Winner of Match 8