Atwal takes three-shot lead into final round of Chattanooga Classic golf

October 19th, 2008 - 10:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Chattanooga (Tennessee), Oct 19 (IANS) Arjun Atwal shot the day’s best round of six-under 66 with three birdies in last four to take a giant step Saturday toward a return to the PGA Tour as he vaulted ahead of Weeb Simpson, the leader for first two rounds, in the Chattanooga Classic golf. Atwal, mastering the difficult pin position and windy conditions of over 22 miles per hour, moved three clear of Simpson as he looked at his maiden win in the US. The win will also carry Atwal to the top-25 and a PGA Tour card for 2009.

Atwal, winner of the 2008 Maybank Malaysian Open, had a 54-hole total of 24-under-par 192, which is also the tournament record and the record for most strokes under par through three rounds on the Nationwide Tour this year.

After four birdies in the first six holes, Atwal pulled two shots ahead of Simpson, who made two early bogeys at second and third holes. Simpson drew even again after an eagle at the fourth and three birdies at holes sixth, eighth and tenth. The two stayed neck and neck until a two-shot swing at the par-3 17th hole.

The difficult conditions Saturday made scoring tougher at the Black Creek Club.

“Seventeen was a tough hole today,” said Atwal, who hit 17 greens in regulation. On the first two days he hit 17 and 18 greens in regulation which means he has missed just two greens in regulation in 54 holes.

“Webb tried to hold his shot up in the wind. It caught the trap left. It’s dead in there and he didn’t get it up and down. I hit mine to 10 feet and made it and that was the turning point.”

Atwal closed his round with a tap-in birdie after a brilliant shot from the greenside bunker while Simpson two-putted for par from 50 feet. Simpson made five bogeys Saturday compared to one bogey in the first 36 holes.

Bill Lunde (68) is third at 19 under, while Hunter Haas (67) lies fourth at 18 under. Matt Weibring (70), whose father, D.A., won on the Champions Tour last week, and Scott Stallings (73), and playing only his second Nationwide Tour event, are tied for fifth at 17 under.

Lunde’s round of seven birdies and three bogeys moved him into third spot but five shots back of Atwal.

Tom Gillis (71) was making good progress, getting to 19 under and only three strokes adrift through 10 holes. A double bogey at the par-5 14th and two closing bogeys left Gillis nine strokes behind Atwal.

Current leading money winner Brendon de Jonge (67) will certainly extend his lead over No. 2 Jarrod Lyle, who missed the cut Friday.

A good measure of the difficult conditions Saturday compared to the first two rounds where not a single player scored a bogey-free round.

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