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Nakajima, Pastor steal thunder

Rey Bancod

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LUBAO, Pampanga — Japanese Toru Nakajima shot five birdies in a bogey-free round to tie Spaniard Marcos Pastor for the lead Thursday, going into the final round of the ICTSI Pradera Verde golf championship here.

Nakajima and Pastor are four-under for the tournament after three rounds with Joe Knox of England, Antonio Lascuña and Rupert Zaragosa just a stroke behind.

The Japanese, who won at Wack-Wack in Mandaluyong in 2013, avoided the fairway bunkers by keeping his driver on the bag in some holes.

“I’m not thinking about the title yet. I will just enjoy my game,” said the 35-year-old Nakajima, a four-year veteran in the lucrative Japanese tour.

Pastor, who has made the country his base since last year, fired a 69, but missed a 12-foot eagle putt on the final hole that would have given him the lead outright.

“I made a couple of long putts to save par, but I missed the short one at 18. Overall, I’m happy,” said the 30-year-old Spaniard from Cordova.

Pastor said he intends to compete full time in the country “because I can to do that with my own money.”

He said he left Spain with 3,000 euros last year and had modest success, making the cut in eight of nine legs he took part. His best finish was third in Luisita.

Still a force to reckon with at 49, Lascuña holed in for eagle at the par-5, 18th for 69 and 3-under overall.

“If I can score even par in the first six holes, I think I have a chance,” said Lascuña who leads the Order of Merit race with two legs left.

Knox had a quiet round of three birdies against the same number of bogeys to finish at even par, the first time he did not break par.

Zaragosa, on the other, shot his third straight 71 to contend for the crown for the first time in the event put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High as chief backers.

The pocket-sized Canlubang pro birdied the 18th to get to three-under after a bogey on the 15.

“I struggled with my putting today. I hope to do better tomorrow,” said the former national amateur champion who missed the cut in eight of nine tournaments last year.

Two-time winner Jhonnel Ababa, Reymon Jaraula and Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands tied for eighth spot at one-under, three shots off the pace.

“I will take risks tomorrow,” vowed Ababa who turned in another 73.

“I need to score seven or eight-under to win.”

Jaraula, a Del Monte journeyman, collected five birdies against two bogeys for 69 while Van der Velk settled for a 71 on two birdies against a lone bogey.

First-round co-leader Jack Lane-Weston of Australia struggled with a 74 and fell in a tie for 11th at even par with unheralded Rico Depilo who matched par.

Clyde Mondilla and Michael Bibat shared 13th at one-over par following a 71 and 73, respectively.

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