Tournament article

De Los Santos nails ace to leap into tied-seventh

De Los Santos nails ace to leap into tied-seventh

Philippines' rising star Justin De Los Santos pulled off yet another magical shot when he sank his maiden hole-in-one of his JGTO career to stay in contention at The Players for The Players golf tournament.

Barely three weeks after holing an albatross at the ANA Open, the 27-year-old aced the par-three fifth hole at The Raysum en route to netting 11 points to finish the day in a tie for seventh alongside American Han Lee on 23 points total.

The two internationals will head to the final round 10 points behind leader Shintaro Kobayashi.

Apart from his ace which was worth a whopping five points under the Stableford scoring format, De Los Santos also picked up a total of 10 points through five birdies on holes number four, eight, 12, 13 and 17.

He also dropped four points, including three as a result of a double bogey carded on the par-four 14th.

"This was probably the seventh hole-in-one that I achieved, but just the second time in a tournament," said a delighted De Los Santos.

"It was about 215 yards with a 5-iron.

"I hit it perfectly on the line, so I thought it was a good shot and landed exactly where I was hoping for.

"I saw it kind of disappear and the very next thing I saw some of the people started to cheer. That's when I realised it went in."

De Los Santos was cool about the double whammy which he reckoned did not hurt him much.

"I got pretty aggressive on that one shot as I had to try to hit through some trees, but in the end, I didn't get it quite high enough," he explained.

"The fun part about this format is that a double bogey with -3 is the worse you can make. So, it kind of like give me the green light for whatever I want to attempt.

"Overall, I'm still in a good position. Hopefully, I can play another really good round tomorrow and see where it takes me to."

Lee, meanwhile, battled back gallantly to keep his hopes of ending a 10-year title drought intact.

After bogeying twice in the opening six holes as he responded with four birdies to yield six points, slipping four rungs from where he started.

Lee is adamant that a 10-point deficit isn't too big of a gap and has vowed to keep piling the pressure on Kobayashi.

"You got to need a little bit of help. He (Kobayashi) played it so well today. Even the one he missed, his up and down was incredible," said Lee.

"But with the tournament being contested in such a way where eagles can be rewarding and double bogey being so penalising, anything can still happen.

"I will try to go out there and rake in as many points as possible tomorrow.

Asked if he's desperate to return to winning ways having last won the Taiheiyo Masters in 2012, he said: "I want to win again, everybody wants to win.

"But at the same time I also just want to make sure that keep getting better.  This year, I rediscovered some of my confidence back, and it's vital after being absent for some time due to surgery.

Kobayashi put himself on the brink of glory after opening up a six points lead over Ryuichi Oiwa with 18 holes to play.

Kobayashi notched seven birdies and a lone bogey to bring his points tally to 33.

"I hit it solid all day and made many good putts today, everything is perfect," he said.

"The most important thing is just to keep playing the same I like did in these three days.

"Annaka city is my hometown, and I enjoy very good support here. It motivates me a lot. This has whetted my appetite to win this week."