Mauritius, December 2: Arjun Atwal of India battled to a three-under-par 68 in swirling wind to tie for the third round lead with Louis De Jager of South Africa at the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on Saturday.
Atwal, a former Asian Tour number one, enjoyed a solid front nine 32 before adding his fifth birdie on hole 14. He was ahead by one-shot heading into 18 but missed a four-foot par putt to finish on 13-under-par 200 at the Heritage Golf Club.
The 30-year-old De Jager produced a flawless 67, highlighted by two birdies in each half, to charge into contention at the €1million (approximately US$1.07 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Sunshine Tour.
Talented Filipino Miguel Tabuena birdied the closing two holes to stay one-shot back of the leaders following a round of 67. He shared third place with Dylan Frittelli of South Africa who also birdied the last hole for a 68.
Atwal, who will captain Team Asia in the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in 2018, will enter the final 18 holes with huge confidence after retaining his lead which he has held since firing a course record 62 on the opening day.
He did not play a practice round this week and is still recovering from a 16-hour journey from Kuala Lumpur. He remains relaxed on the holiday-isle of Mauritius as he searches for a ninth Asian Tour title and his first since 2014.
The 23-year-old Tabuena recovered from an opening bogey to return with five birdies and stay in the hunt for a second Asian Tour title.
“I’m really calm here but a bit tired. You mixed those two together and I think I’ll be okay on Sunday!” – Arjun Atwal.
Did you know?
- The last time Atwal was in a share of the lead heading into the final round was at the 2014 Dubai Open which he eventually won.
- Out of the eight Asian Tour victories, Atwal has won five when he has led or co-led heading into the final round.
- Atwal birdied the par-five seventh hole for the third straight day. He is also four-under on the par-five 14th hole where he eagled on the first day and birdied in round two and three.
- A three putt on the 18th hole led to a disappointing bogey. It was his first three putt in the tournament. He totalled 26 putts today which equalled his total putts in round one.
- In three editions of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, only George Goetzee of South Africa has led after the third round and gone on to win the tournament.
- Jager is a three-time Sunshine Tour champion. He will play in the final group for the first time in his career in a tri-sanctioned event.
- He is aiming to become the second South African player after Coetzee to win the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open.
- De Jager said he is inspired to win the tournament after playing in a pro-am with South African legend Gary Player last week.
- Tabuena only used driver on holes two, four, seven, 11, 14 and 17. On most holes other than the par threes, he would drive the ball with a two-iron.
- This is the first time this week where Tabuena has birdied the closing two holes. He has also birdied the par five 14th hole on all three days.
Arjun Atwal (Ind) – Third Round 68 (-3), Total 200 (-13)
I played solid all day except for a blip on the last hole which won’t bother me. It did play harder today. It was definitely blowing harder out of the three days. I played solid all day.
The driving was difficult because we had crosswinds on most holes but I drove it on most days pretty good. 18 was the only missed drive but other than that I drove it pretty much where I was looking and I’m very pleased with that.
The officials got it right with the green speeds. If it was any faster, the ball would move especially in the gusty conditions. I’m really looking forward to Sunday. With the way I’m playing, I think I have a good shot at it.
I’m really calm here but a bit tired. You mixed those two together and I think I’ll be okay on Sunday!
Louis de Jager (Rsa) – Third Round 67 (-4), Total 200 (-13)
I’m very pleased with my efforts. It was really tough out there today. The wind was very strong and there were some good pin positions, so I’m really pleased with the score.
I felt really composed. I was quite cool and calm out there. I didn’t hit the ball as well as the first two days but my short game really saved me today, and my putter really saved me inside the eight-foot range. I made a few crucial putts that really kept me in the tournament.
It’s always a goal to keep bogeys off the card. You know you can hit good shots and still make bogey, so when there are none on the card, it’s really pleasing.
It’s going to be my first time in the final group in a co-sanctioned tournament. I’m going to cherish the moment. I’m looking forward to it and I’m going to go out there and give it my all.
Miguel Tabuena (Phi) – Third Round 67 (-4), Total 201 (-12)
I can’t complain but I can’t get ahead of myself. There’re still 18 holes left. It looked easy but it really isn’t. There are holes which can bite you. I didn’t take advantage of the par fives and I’m not happy about that.
I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve been in position so many times locally and on the Asian Tour. I know what it takes to win. I’m in beautiful Mauritius and you can’t complain.
I didn’t use many drivers because of the way the course is. I’m not the shortest hitter with a two-iron. The key on this course is to find the fairways and I’ve been doing that.
Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) – Third Round 68 (-3), Total 201 (-12)
I’m pretty happy. Through the front nine I had a goal of two under and I beat that by one, but it could have been a whole lot better. I played well today I just couldn’t get the putts to go in. I’ll do a bit of practice now and hopefully go lower tomorrow.
I probably had eight or ten putts where I read the putts perfectly then had to adjust for the wind. I though the wind was going to hit it and most of the time it didn’t, so it was a bit tricky there. I still gave myself opportunities. I think tomorrow I’ll try to hit it a bit closer and make it easier for the putter.
The 18th is pretty tough if you can’t get the drive on the fairway. I just figured I would hit as hard as I can down the middle and today it came off nicely. I only had 186 to the flag, seven iron, middle of the green, easy two putt – although I turned it into a difficult two putt!
I would have to check the stats but I would figure it was at least a shot and a half harder than the first two days. You’ve got the top 65 guys playing right now so it’s tough to see those stats, but I would figure if the whole field played, at least a shot and a half.
I gave myself a lot of chances. It’s just tough when you’re on the green, 30 feet away with the wind blowing sideways. You’re just trying to lag it up there. It’s boring to play in fact, you just have to roll it up and tap it in because you can’t really give it a go. You’re standing with an iron shot thinking, well unless I hit it inside 30 feet I’m just lagging it, so there’s lot of pressure on those iron shots. Hopefully tomorrow I can be a little more specific and hit it closer.
I’m really excited, I didn’t think I would be one shot back at the end of the day. I struggled through most of the round. I’ll sleep well tonight and won’t be in the final group tomorrow, so that will help. Hopefully I’ll post a nice low number and watch the guys come in.
Leading third round scores:
200 – Louis DE JAGER (RSA) 66 67 67, Arjun ATWAL (IND) 62 70 68
201 – Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 66 68 67, Dylan FRITTELLI (RSA) 67 66 68
203 – Romain LANGASQUE (FRA) 67 69 67, Justin WALTERS (RSA) 68 66 69, Jose-Filipe LIMA (POR) 68 66 69
204 – Ricardo GOUVEIA (POR) 68 68 68
205 – Joel STALTER (FRA) 67 68 70, Oliver BEKKER (RSA) 67 67 71, Laurie CANTER (ENG) 67 66 72
206 – Douglas MCGUIGAN (RSA) 69 71 66, Jean-Paul STRYDOM (RSA) 71 69 66, Haydn PORTEOUS (RSA) 69 71 66, George COETZEE (RSA) 67 71 68, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 69 69 68, Matthieu PAVON (FRA) 69 68 69, Darren FICHARDT (RSA) 70 66 70, Louis OOSTHUIZEN (RSA) 67 68 71, Mark WILLIAMS (ZIM) 69 66 71
207 – Masahiro KAWAMURA (JPN) 68 70 69, Jinho CHOI (KOR) 71 66 70, Ockie STRYDOM (RSA) 66 68 73
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