Kuala Lumpur: Title holder Bo Van Pelt of the United States charged to the top of the leaderboard after a spectacular nine-under-par 62 saw him tie overnight leader Robert Garrigus in the third round of the US$6.1 million CIMB Classic on Saturday.
Van Pelt, who arrived for his defence in top form following a win in the ISPS HANDA Perth International last week, flirted with golf’s magical 59 as he was 11-under-par through 17 holes before disappointingly dropping a double bogey on the closing hole at The MINES Resort and Golf Club.
Garrigus overcame a sluggish start by finishing with three closing birdies for a 69 and shared the lead on 16-under-par 197 in the co-sanctioned Asian Tour and PGA Tour event.
World number two Tiger Woods worked up the large crowds by tying for the lead briefly with an outward 30 but his challenge wilted under the Malaysian heat as a see-saw back nine of three bogeys and one double bogey saw him settle for a 69, five shots back.
South African Jbe Kruger, third on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, kept himself in the title hunt with a 69 putting him two strokes back while India’s rising star Gaganjeet Bhullar fired a fine 65 for tied 10th place alongside Woods.
“Obviously, disappointing to finish with a double but I look back on the 17 and a half holes I played, and, you know, hopefully that will carry over into tomorrow, not the last half,” said the 37-year-old Van Pelt.
“I was like seven back going into the day, so I dug a pretty big hole. Felt like you’re going to need at least one really special round to try to give yourself a chance. I don’t think I missed a fairway on the front nine. My irons were pretty sharp, and the putter, I had been close all week, and today they were going in. They weren’t burning the edge,” he added.
While a mistake at the greenside bunker on 18 spoilt his hopes for a 59, Van Pelt, ranked 23rd in the world, lamented missed birdie opportunities on several holes.
“I had obviously never had that good a chance to shoot a 59 before, and to be honest, I’ll probably look back on it and think about the third hole (par five). I had a five iron in from the middle of the fairway and didn’t make birdie. I’ll look back at 15, I’m 30 yards from the green with an easy pitch and don’t make it. Those are the holes that cost me more than 18,” he said.
Two opening bogeys wiped out Garrigus’ two-shot overnight lead almost immediately but the 34-year-old American battled back gamely. “I must have been tired or something,” he said of his start.
“Didn’t really have my golf swing that much today. I hit some bad shots, hit some bad putts, but sucked it up coming down there in the last.”
Woods had the large crowds following his group in a frenzy after he sank five birdies in his opening eight holes. As the birdies dried up, the American superstar made far too many errors, including a tee shot into the water for a double bogey on 14 and a three putt bogey on 17.
“The back nine I made too many mistakes. I kept making bad decisions and bad swings,” lamented Woods. “I’m going to have to shoot a low one tomorrow. Something similar to what Bo did. The problem with being this far back, I’m going to need help. A great round tomorrow might not win it.”
The slightly built Kruger hung around the leaderboard with an inward 33 giving him a realistic shot at the US$1.3 million top prize on Sunday. “Concentration, as always. It’s probably the main thing. I find if I take a second or two longer, I know I can concentrate a bit better. I just started to do that,” said the South African on his better fortunes in the back nine.
“One shot at a time. We’ll see tomorrow. I’ve been hitting it probably as good as I’ve been hitting it the last four or five months. So I’m actually feeling confident.”
Leading third round scores
197 – Bo Van Pelt (USA) 70-65-62, Robert Garrigus (USA) 64-64-69
198 – Chris Kirk (USA) 69-66-63
199 – Brendon de Jonge (ZIM) 68-65-66, JBE Kruger (RSA) 66-64-69
200 – Brian Harman (USA) 64-70-66
201 – Tom Gillis (USA) 65-70-66, Nicky Watney (USA) 71-65-65, Greg Chalmers (AUS) 66-66-69
202 – Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 65-72-65, Jeff Overton (USA) 64-70-68, Tiger Woods (USA) 66-67-69, Ben Crane (USA) 66-67-69, Kevin Na (USA) 67-66-69