Tarlac—James Ryan Lam banged in a 28-foot birdie putt on No. 18 for a 67, capping his fightback from four down to a rare spot on top with Jobim Carlos and Aussie Jack Sullivan in a topsy-turvy third round of the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here yesterday.
First round leader Elmer Salvador recalled his fierce form and regained the lead with a solid five-under card after 10 holes but fell behind again with a missed green bogey on No. 11 and a three-putt miscue on the 13th for a 69, enabling Sullivan, who shot a 69, Carlos, who saved a 71, and a fired-up Lam to seize control at 10-under 206.
“I’ll just play my usual game and see what happens in the final round,” said Lam, 30, seeking to finally nail the big one after four runner-up finishes, including at PGT Del Monte last June.
Despite his backside meltdown, Salvador kept the leaders within sight with a 207 while Joenard Rates and American Josh Salah shot identical 68s for 208s, guaranteeing a shootout for the top $17,500 purse in the $100,000 championship serving as the sixth leg of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia sponsored by ICTSI.
“I played relatively good but made a double bogey on No. 9. When you make a mistake here, it’s hard to recover, so I have to play better and try to keep my game in check tomorrow (today),” said Carlos, who blew a two-stroke lead in the face of Salvador’s hot start but birdied the 16th from 10 feet to at least keep a share of the lead.
“I was playing solid but made two bogeys at the back and never recovered,” rued Salvador.
While Carlos and Lam refused to predict the winning score, Sullivan, who hit four birdies against a bogey, said he would need to shoot a 68 to win and become the second Australian to win in the second season of the region’s newest circuit after David Gleeson topped the kickoff leg in Luisita Championship also here last April.
Last week’s ICTSI Luisita Invitational winner Clyde Mondilla also turned in a 68 and stayed on course for a second straight victory with a 209 while Michael Bibat likewise produced a 69 and remained in contention at 210 in one of the most crowded leaderboards heading to the final round of a PGT Asia event.
But Jhonnel Ababa, winner of PGT Asia Forest Hills last July, missed closing in on the leaders with a wobbly finish, bogeying No. 17 and holing out with a 6 on the closing par-4 hole for a 73.
He slipped to joint ninth at 211, five strokes behind, with Ira Alido and Thai Wisut Artjanawat, who both shot 69s, Aussie Tim Stewart, who carded a 71, Keanu Jahns and Korean-American Seungjae Maeng, who matched par 72s, and Thai Nirun Sae Ueng, who fumbled with a 73.
But no lead is safe and no deficit is too big to overcome at Luisita with Lam charging back from four down halfway through with a strong start and a big finish when things seemed to go wrong for the unheralded pro seeking to hit paydirt this week.