Tarlac – Finn Teemu Putkonen made up for his late meltdown in the previous round with a strong finish yesterday, birdying two of the last three holes to shoot an eagle-spiked 68 and snatch the third round lead from Guido Van der Valk in the ICTSI Luisita Championship here yesterday.
In a leaderboard dominated by foreign aces, Putkonen finally took control after losing grip of the lead halfway through the $100,000 championship with a late double bogey Tuesday, putting up a combination of superb shots from the mound to the green to produce a second straight four-under card in near-ideal conditions and a 54-hole aggregate of 10-under 206.
“My driving, irons and short game were simply good,” said Putkonen, who birdied the opening hole and holed out with an 11-foot eagle putt on the par-5 fifth off a solid 3-wood second shot from 260 yards. Those negated his bogeys on Nos. 3 and 6 with the Finnish still in search for a first local win hitting another birdie on No. 11 before closing out with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 from 15 feet.
That put him three strokes ahead of Van der Valk, who pounced on Putkonen’s late-hole mishap to wrest the lead after 36 holes behind a fiery backside run of 31 for a 65 in the second round. But the Dutch failed to sustain his charge, settling for a four-birdie, four-bogey game for a 72 to drop to second at 209.
“I’m not used to making predictions but I’ll just play my game and hopefully I’ll make it tomorrow (today),” said 30-year-old shotmaker from Jarvenpaa, a 30-minute drive from Helsinki, who tied for 18th at PGT Asia Riviera last month.
Van der Valk, however, said he would need to shoot a six-under to earn a shot at the crown, stressing: “A three-stroke lead isn’t safe here but it will still be difficult to catch him.”
A host of others churned out low scores in hot conditions to get into the mix heading to the final 18 holes of the event serving as the kickoff leg of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia third season with Spain’s Marcos Pastor matching Van der Valk’s seven-under card in the second round with a solid 33-32 highlighted by an eagle on No. 16.
Pastor, who topped the PGT qualifying tournament and tied for third in the PGT Asia elims, moved to joint third at 210, still four strokes behind Putkonen but gained some momentum in pursuit of a breakthrough victory in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.
Joining him at third are Korean-American Micah Shin, who also got back into the thick of things with a 67, Japanese Keita Sudo, who shot a 70, and Thais Natthapong Niyomchon and first round leader Namchok Tantipokhakul, who carded a 70 and 72, respectively.
Thai Donlaphatchai Niyomchon also sizzled with a 68 for joint eighth at 211 with compatriot Tawit Polthai, who turned in a 69 while Tony Lascuña showed flashes of his old brilliance and fired a bogey-free 68.
But the multi-titled Davaoeño shotmaker remained too far behind Putkonen at 212, six shots off, as erstwhile local contender Jay Bayron bombed out with a 74 and fell to joint 15th at 213.
“I still couldn’t get it right with my putts. I could’ve have moved closer had I made at least two more birdies,” said Lascuña, who hit all but one fairway and missed just two greens although he rued a couple of birdie chances that could’ve boosted his third round charge. He ended up with 30 putts.
Justin Quiban, a former PGT Asia leg winner, also came through with an eagle-spiked 66 to join Lascuña at 10th with compatriot Arnold Villacencio, who shot a 70, Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang, who matched par 72, and Thai Kammalas Namuangruk, who hobbled with a 73.
But the fight for the top $17,500 could be reduced to the top seven players although Putkonen looked headed to finally nailing the elusive win with a big cushion and a confidence boosted by a string of under-par cards that included an opening 70.