Aaron Baddeley rides to the top in Puerto Rico Open, Arjun Atwal makes 74

Aaron Baddeley posted a spotless 66 on Saturday to take a one shot lead in the Puerto Rico Open. Arjun Atwal made another fighting effort, making 74 in the third round

313
Aaron Baddeley shot into the lead in Puerto Rico Open

24 February 2019: Aaron Baddeley has been making a steady climb this week, improving his card with each passing round. A spotless 66 on Saturday helped him ride into the lead at the Coco Beach Golf & Country Club, ahead by one over Nate Lashley. Martin Trainer is lying third a further stroke behind at 10-under 206. Arjun Atwal has been holding his own despite a stern test on a challenging course and windy conditions. However, scores of 72-73-74 meant that he is lying 72nd at 3-over 219.

Atwal played well for much of the day on Saturday. His score does not reflect the discipline and commitment shown by the battling Indian, who made three bogeys and a lone birdie.

After beginning the day with a birdie at the par-5 second hole, Arjun conceded bogeys at the fourth and seventh holes, both par-4s. He made the turn in 37 strokes and despite a clean run through the return stretch, a foray to the fairway bunker on the par-5 15th hole proved expensive as he conceded his third bogey of the round.

Baddeley is a three-time winner on the PGA TOUR, the last of those coming at the Barbasol Championship in 2016, the same season when he finished T8 at the Puerto Rico Open. This is the eighth time in his career that the 37-year-old has the lead or a share of it at the end of 54 holes. He has only converted twice – 2006 RBC Heritage and 2011 Genesis Open – giving the chasing pack plenty of hope as they set out to score an important victory on Sunday.

On Saturday, Baddeley made six birdies, four on the front and two more on his way to the clubhouse. With a T4 at the Safeway Open already in his bag, the Aussie will look to join Marc Leishman on the winners list this season.

“Super excited,” he said. “I’m right in everything, so it’s a good opportunity tomorrow, but will try not to put any pressure on (myself). I just know if I can go out there and play my game, keep swinging the way I’m swinging, putting the way I’m putting, I should have a good chance coming down the last.”

“I hit the ball close a few times. I had some short birdie putts. I’ve just doing a few things like that (that) made it pretty comfortable,” he added.

Lashley earned a spot in the final group Sunday, with a birdie at the 18th hole after starting with a bizarre bogey-eagle-bogey sequence, just for an even start in the third round. Lashley is a winner on the Web.com tour, having won the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship when the event was on that calendar. It is now a PGA TOUR event from this season.

“This is a lot bigger deal,” he admitted. “Any time you get a chance to win on any tour, it’s great. Going into tomorrow, I’m just going to try to go out and keep calm and play some good golf and see what happens at the end of the day.”

Bogey-free rounds

R1 (8): Andres Romero (66), Alex Kang (68), Roberto Castro (68), Martin Flores (69), Kramer Hickok (69), David Lingmerth (69), Curtis Luck (70), Aaron Baddeley (70)

R2 (3): Roberto Diaz (68), Curtis Luck (68), John Chin (70)

R3 (5): Aaron Baddeley (66), J.J. Henry (67), Stuart Appleby (69), Ken Duke (70), Julian Etulain (70)