JUN Rates charged back with a 68, James Ryan Lam birdied the last two holes to salvage a 72, while Mars Pucay made a double-bogey on the 18th but still wound up tied for the lead after a third round 72 in the P3.5 million ICTSI Tournament Players’ Championship on Thursday at Southlinks Golf Club in Las Piñas.
On a day halfway leader John Kier Abdon made a horrible 11 on the par-5 No. 4 and bowed out of the title race with an 82, Rates, Lam and Pucay forged a triple-tie at three-under 213.
Rolando Marabe rebounded with a 69 to re-fuel his breakthrough bid at 212 in a tie with Ferdie Aunzo, who shot a 70, and Elmer Saban, who matched par 72.
Mhark Fernando was at 216 after a 75 and first round leader Rufino Bayron shot a 71 for joint eighth at 217 with Clyde Mondilla, who carded a 75.
“It would’ve been a good round until I hit a bad tee-shot on the 18th which led to a double-bogey,” said Pucay, who wrested control with a 34 at the front and had a two-shot lead heading to the par-5 18th. “I tried to avoid the bunker off the tee but hit it short and dumped it into the bushes.”
Still, the veteran Asian Tour campaigner remained confident of his chances but stressed the need for ball control and go under in the final 18 holes of the finale of the 16-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“It’s still anybody’s game. No lead is safe here at Southlinks where one must be on the fairway in all 14 holes since a mishit would mean trouble with all the bushes on the left or right. Making under-par will be okay in the final round,” said Pucay.
Like the rest of the contenders, Rates and Lam are raring to end the season on a winning note after the duo put themselves in contention after another challenging day at Southlinks where new leaders emerged for the third straight day.
“I really want to end the season with a win and this is my first time to get a crack at two victories in a year,” said Rates, who dominated the field to win at John Hay in March.
Starting the day at joint eight, the diminutive Rates worked his way up with two birdies at the front then rattled off three straight from No. 10.
“You have to limit your mistakes here. As much as possible hit the fairways to be able to set up target for birdies. It’s a tough course and with final round pressure, anybody can win,” said Rates.
Two behind with two holes to go, Lam said he had to make things happen to get a clear shot at a first-ever crown.
Pulling out an 8-iron from around 172 yards, Lam hit it to within three feet for birdie on the 17th and used his 3-iron twice to set up a pitching wedge shot from 130 yards to the middle of the green, rolling in a 28-footer for another birdie.
“As long as I can hit the ball in the fairway, I can manage my way around the course,” said Lam. “But putting hasn’t been so good in second and third rounds so hopefully it will be different tomorrow.”
But Pucay, Rates and Lam will not only have themselves to watch out in today’s final round as Marabe, Aunzo and Saban stood just one stroke behind and Fernando staying three off in what has been a wild, wooly race for the final leg crown in the circuit backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, KZG and Rudy Project.
Abdon’s disastrous 82 pulled him down to joint 16th at 221 with Dante Becierra (71), Gerald Rosales (71), Miguel Ochoa (73) and Edward Reyes (75), eight strokes off the three leaders.