Resorts World Manila Masters, Hung to the solo lead

Abac Cordero - The Philippine Star

CARMONA, Cavite, Philippines – Hung Chien-yao of Taipei birdied three of his last five holes to ward off his challengers yesterday and grab the solo lead after three rounds of the $1 million Resorts World Manila Masters.

The 23-year-old had a total of six birdies in a round of 68. But it was the last three on Nos. 14, 15 and 17 that saved his day after bogeys on the 11th and 13th holes of the Manila Southwoods’ Masters course.

Hung’s only miscues for the day, including a missed par putt from less than a foot at No. 11, allowed South African Jbe Kruger to briefly enjoy the lead.

Kruger, tied for the lead with Hung and another Taiwanese, Lee Chieh-po at the start of the day, had a 69. His eagle on the par-5 15th hole, a putt inside 12 feet, gave him the lead. But he couldn’t buy a birdie the rest of the way and settled for solo second.

Hung is now at 202 with 18 holes to play, followed by Kruger at 203 and Lee, a 21-year-old rookie on the Asian Tour who fired a 71 for a 205 total.

The solo leader, who was paired with Lee, said he simply played out his last holes, almost unaware that he had lost the lead or that he had gotten it back.  

“I didn’t really notice. I just played my game. I didn’t even mark my score for the last five holes as I was focused a lot. I was really focused and concentrated well. I didn’t think of anything,” he said.

“I like this course. I love it and I think I’ll enjoy it tomorrow,” Hung added.

Kruger, who had his girlfriend in tow the entire round, said he’ll just give it his best in the final round.  

“You can try as hard as you want but if it’s not your destiny, if it’s not God’s will, you won’t win. One shot at a time,” he said.

Lee got off on the wrong foot with three straight bogeys but regained control of his game with a chip-in birdie from outside the green on the fourth hole. Five more birdies gave him a lot of hope.

But on the 18th, a par-5 hole, Lee had a wayward drive. He played out into the fairway, and sent his third shot into a bunker that slopes into the water. With his right foot dipped in the water, he played out into another greenside bunker. He was on in five.

Lee ended his day the way he started it – with a bogey. But at 205 and only three shots behind Hung, he still has a solid chance to win it all.

Natipong Srithong of Thailand and Carlos Pigem of Spain were tied for fourth at 206 after their respective rounds of 66 and 67. Then six players share sixth place at 207.

Heading to the final day, 15 players, including Angelo Que, are six shots or less off the lead.

After a pair of 71s, Que turned in a solid six-under-par 66 built around six birdies to move into contention with 18 holes to play.

“I like where I am right now. I’m still trailing but I’m up there now,” said the 36-year-old, a five-time winner on the Asian Tour.

Que, always surrounded by his wife and kids off the course, birdied No. 5 from 30 feet, Nos. 10 and 11 from inside 15, and Nos. 15 and 16 from six feet.

He almost scored an eagle on the par-5 18th but settled for birdie from two feet. He said he got a call from his swing coach, Bong Lopez, before the day began.

“He (Lopez) wanted me to roll my shoulder more when I putt. I haven’t done that lately and it worked for me today,” said Que.

Srithong matched Que’s output for the day with a string of birdies from the sixth to the ninth holes.

The 21-year-old Thai had eight birdies in all to cushion bogeys on Nos. 5 and 13.

Pigem alternated birdies on Nos. 2, 4, 6 and 8 then had nine straight pars. He birdied the last hole.

Pigem was not supposed to be here. Just a few days ago, he was in Girona, Spain, in qualifying school for the European Tour.

But he missed the cut in a tournament last Tuesday, and boarded the next plane out and headed to the Philippines. He arrived in Manila at 1 a.m. Wednesday.

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