Wild finish looms as new leaders emerge

    CO-LEADER: Toru Nakajima gains a chance to win anew after a long while.
    CO-LEADER: Toru Nakajima gains a chance to win anew after a long while.

    TORU Nakajima of Japan and Marcos Pastor of Spain took charge in another day of changing fortunes, going low on a course that continued to produce big numbers and setting the stage for a thriller of a finish in the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic in Lubao, Pampanga yesterday.

    Nakajima buried delicate putts on a sleek surface he likened to the ones in Japan and got away with five birdies to turn in the first bogey-free round of 67 at Pradera Verde, jumping from 15th to a share of the lead at 212 with the late-charging Pastor, who birdied three of the last seven for a 69 and a crack at a breakthrough win in the $100,000 Philippine Golf Tour Asia event put up by ICTSI.

    Tony Lascuña also stepped up his bid, sinking a pitch-in eagle on the closing par-5 18th to spike a 69 and grab a share of third with erstwhile joint leader Joe Knox of England, who held on to the lead despite a three-birdie, three-bogey effort before settling for pars in the last two for a 72, paving the way for a new set of leaders to show the way in the penultimate leg of PGTA’s third (2019-20) season after back-to-back defending champion Jhonnel Ababa, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Aussie Jack Lane-Weston and Clyde Mondilla wrested control Tuesday.

    “The greens are fast, sloping, very much like in Japan,” said Nakajima, who became the first foreign player to win in the PGT when he humbled Cassius Casas and Jay Bayron in sudden death in November 2013 at Wack Wack. He, however, struggled in the succeeding seasons then returned to Japan the last two years where he posted not-so favorable finishes.

    He decided to resume his campaign here “because the golf courses are beautiful and I like it.” But he struggled with his long game in his first PGT Asia event and limped home with a 75 Tuesday before settling down with a 70 and then flashing superb putting touch to birdie Nos. 1, 9, 12, 15 and 16.

    “No three putts. Winds strong but didn’t bother me, I just go on and play,” added the 35-year-old from Tokyo. “I’ll just enjoy my game and go for it if there’s an opportunity tomorrow (today) because it’s my dream (to win again).”

    Pastor put himself in strong contention from joint seventh with that strong finish and hoped to sustain his charge today in a bid to finally joint the elite circle of PGTA winners.