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Delos Santos gains; Hovland, Mcilroy seal title clash in British Open

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Delos Santos gains; Hovland, Mcilroy seal title clash in British Open
Justin Delos Santos
Instagram / Singapore Open

MANILA, Philippines — Justin delos Santos moved in the threshold of a career-defining performance, firing a two-under 70 and moving 11 spots up to joint 55th after three tough rounds in the 150th British Open virtually reduced to a shootout between Norway’s Viktor Hovland and Irishman Rory McIlroy in St. Andres, Scotland Saturday (Sunday, Manila time).

Delos Santos bounced back from a second round 73 with his best card in a major debut, bucking a double bogey on No. 2 with backside birdies that saved him a 36-34 round for a two-under 214 total heading to the final round of the season’s final major offering a total prize fund of $14 million.

He remained too far behind the joint leaders, who matched six-under 66s in challenging conditions for identical 16-under 200 totals, four strokes over joint third placers Cameron Young of the US and Aussie Cameron Smith, who carded a 71 and 73, respectively, for 204s. 

But the 26-year-old Fil-Am shotmaker could bank on his good run of form to produce a higher finish in a final round expected to be nothing but daunting.

As Yuto Katsuragawa cracked with a 75 and tumbled from joint 18th to delos Santos’ group and Kim Joo Hyung grappled for a 72 and fell from 25th to joint 35th at 212, the California Polytechnic State U product birdied the opening hole and kept his poise and birdied the seventh after dropping two strokes on No. 2.

Regaining his confidence, he rolled in another birdie on No. 12 and cashed in on the last par-5 on No. 14 to gain another stroke for that 70. He duels American Tony Finau in the final 18 holes while Katsuragawa faces French Lars Van Meijel and Kim tangles with Harold Varner III, also of the US.

But there is no enthralling match-up than pitting Hovland and McIlroy for the second straight time in a finale tipped to go down to the last shot or putt.

Both traded spectacular shots after spectacular shots with Hovland stringing four straight birdies on the undulating Old Course’s surface from No. 3 and hitting two more at the back to emerge the only player to finish the round without a bogey.

But McIlroy proved he’s ready for another major run, coming through with a perfect blast from the leftside bunker of the reachable par-4 No. 10 that rolled into the cup for eagle to tie Hovland at 15-under overall.

Another birdie on the par-5 14th put McIlroy on top as Hovland flubbed his bid from 10 feet but the former chipped over the par-4 17th, the ball rolling over and resting near the wall. 

He reached the green in three but his par-putt bid from long range missed its target, enabling Hovland, putting for birdie from outside of the sloping the green, to draw level with his own scrambling par.

Both birdied the last hole, another reachable par-4, with Hovland missing an eagle putt.

But while the duo kept their nerves in check all throughout, a number of big guns hobbled, including Dustin Johnson, just within three with a birdie on No. 10 but reeled back with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch from No. 13. 

The former world No. 1, however, regrouped and rolled in a long par-putt on the 17th then birdied the last to save a 71 although he lay six shots off at seventh with 206.

Halfway leader Smith also stayed in the hunt despite yielding the lead with a frontside 36 but came undone with a series of errant shots from the roughs and made a double-bogey on No. 13. He birdied the next but muffed a couple of birdie chances in the last four for a one-over card.

After a 35 start, Young, the first day leader, looked headed to crowding McIlroy and Hovland with three birdies against a bogey in the first five holes at the back. But he double bogeyed No. 16 and fell back with a one-under 71.

World No. 1 Scottie Sheffler also threatened with a four-under card after 11 holes but bogeyed Nos. 12 and 17 before holing out with a birdie for a 69 for joint fifth at 205 with Korean Si Woo Kim, who fired a 67.

GOLF

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