Lubao, Pampanga—Thai Tawit Polthai birdied the last hole to card a 71 and force a four-way tie for the lead with Aussie Andrew Campbell, Jhonnel Ababa and Keanu Jahns while six others stood just two strokes behind, setting up a wild, wooly finish in the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic here.
Polthai checked a shaky mid-round game with a closing birdie, catching Campbell, who shot the day’s best 66, Ababa, who fired a 69, and Jahns, who also put in a 71, at six-under 210 after three rounds of play in exacting conditions at the tough Pradera layout yesterday.
With David Gleeson (68), also of Australia, first round leader Andreas Gronkvist (72) of Sweden, Thais Piya Swangarunporn (71) and Namchok Tantipokhakul (72) and Tony Lascuña (70) and Clyde Mondilla (71) assembling identical 212s and halfway leader Guido Van der Valk staying in the hunt at 213 despite a 75, expect the title chase to go down to the last putt in one of the most crowded third round leaderboards in the two-year old regional circuit put up by ICTSI.
Polthai, who with Jahns started the day just one shot behind Van der Valk, birdied two of the first three holes to wrest control but fell back with five bogeys against three birdies in a 10-hole stretch from No. 5. He needed to birdie the par-5 closing hole to save a 35-36 and keep Thailand’s bid for a breakthrough PGTA win alive.
Jahns took charge at seven-under overall on a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 12 but the 25-year-old Fil-German bogeyed No. 16 and barely held on to a share of the lead with a par-save on the 18th to remain in pursuit of an elusive maiden victory in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
“It’s tough to say what score to shoot tomorrow (today) given the wind condition, which blew from all directions,” said Jahns, whose best finish after seven legs was eighth at Summit Point last November.
Ababa rebounded from a second round 73 with a 33-36 card he sealed with birdies in the last two holes inside seven feet that put the recent PGTA Forest Hills leg winner on track of defending the crown he won by two over Campbell last year. But the Aussie, 29, underscored his readiness to complete an unfinished business by submitting the best card in windy conditions, a pair of 33s spiked by four straight birdies from No. 1 and four more birdies in the last 10 holes against two bogeys.
“I played quite good. It’s windy out there but I like the condition as well as the humid weather,” said Campbell, who worked his way back from seven flights behind to earn a spot in today’s featured threesome with Ababa and Jahns.
But six other fancied players loomed large at 212s, including PGT Asia Luisita leg winner Gleeson, who kept on improving from an opening 74 to a second round 70, putting the day’s lone bogey-free round of 35-33, highlighted by three birdies in the last seven holes.
First round leader Gronkvist also got back into the thick of things after a second round 74 and bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4 as he gunned down two birdies at the back to salvage a 72 while Swangarunporn and Tantipokhakul also stayed in the mix with an eagle-spiked 35-36 and two birdies in the last seven holes for a 37-35 card, respectively.
Two local aces likewise wheeled back into contention despite wobbly finishes with Lascuña blowing a three-under card with a bogey on No. 16 for a 35-35 and Mondilla spoiling a late rally with a bogey on the 18th for a 36-35.
Van der Valk, who grabbed the halfway lead with a new-course record 64, fell off the leaderboard with a mediocre 36 start and slipped to 11th with a bogey-riddled backside 39.
“I played terribly bad, missed so many greens and my short game and putting didn’t complement,” rued the Manila-based Dutchman, who nailed his first PGT win at Eagle Ridge last year.
Given the course condition and the Mike Singgaran-designed layout’s sleek putting surface, even the likes of Thai Jaturon Duanghaichoom (72), American Sam Gillis (73) and Macedonia’s Peter Stojanovski (68), all tied at 214s, still have a shot at the crown along with Lexus Keoninh, who matched par 72 for a 215 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.