Previously known as the Ballantine’s Championship, the Championship at Laguna National sees the European Tour’s finest take to Asia for a third consecutive tournament, where they're chasing vital Race to Dubai points.
The highly acclaimed Laguna National Golf Club plays host this week. A star-studded field is battling for the $1.5 million prize on a course that’s seen the likes of Vijay Singh and Colin Montgomerie reign supreme in previous events.
Day 4 Recap
Felipe Aguilar shot a sensational round of 62 to come from four shots back to win the Championship at Laguna National.
A remarkable back nine of 28 saw the Chilean oust American David Lipsky and Denmark's Anders Hansen by one shot, holing out at the 18th to complete a back nine that included one eagle and six birdies:
Aguilar shot a round over ten-under-par on the final day to finish up on 22-under-par overall, and he described his victory as "very, very special" per EuropeanTour.com.
Here's your final standings following an encapsulating final day in Singapore:
|The Championship at Laguna National—Final Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||R4 Total||Final Total||Overall|
Joint-top of the leaderboard heading into the final day, Hansen looked like he was set to triumph for much of fourth round. But he bogeyed the 16th and in doing so gave Lipsky a chance to seize the initiative.
The American birdied the last hole to move a shot ahead of Hansen on 21-under-par, but neither had enough to stave off the remarkable Aguilar.
The Chilean followed up a pair of solid opening rounds on the first two days with a poor third round, and having found himself four shots back heading into the final day, he looked unlikely to feature in the shake-up for the title.
Even halfway through his round, there looked to be little danger of a challenge, as he went through the front nine in a respectable two-under-par 34. But on the back nine he caught fire.
Six birdies and an eagle at the last saw him storm to the top of the leaderboard, with a 2-2 finish giving the Chilean victory in the most dramatic of circumstances. Hansen did have a chance to take it to a playoff, but he failed to notch the required birdie on 18.
Aguilar insisted that he knew he had to take risks after a solid, yet unspectacular front nine, per EuropeanTour.com:
Yesterday I didn’t have a good round and you figure that you’re so far back that you have no chance.
But today after the front nine I shot two under I knew I had to go deep and I hit the ball one of the best times I ever have and I went for every single pin.
Eight under on the back nine to win is pretty strong, especially making the last one on 18 being between clubs.
Aguilar showcased enough talent here to suggest he should have accumulated more than the two European Tour titles he has won to date. Clearly he has an issue with consistency in his game, but when he plays at his best, he is a stunning player to watch.
A little refinement and some smoothing down of rough edges, Aguilar has the natural ability become a regular challenger on the European Tour.
Day 3 Recap
A superb late flourish from Anders Hansen saw him move level with Panuphol Pittayarat at the top of the leaderboard ahead of the final day of the Championship at Laguna National.
Three consecutive birdies at holes 15, 16 and 17 saw the Dane move to 16-under-par, matching the score of overnight leader Pittayarat ahead of what promises to be a gripping Day 4 in Singapore.
Here's how it's shaping up after Day 3:
|The Championship at Laguna National—Day 3 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||R1 Total||R2 Total||R3 Total||Overall|
Ahead of the penultimate day of play, it was apparent that things were going to be a little bit trickier out on course. Some devious flag placings were compounded by a brisk wind, and it was obvious the players were going to have to be at their sparkling best to match the low scoring seen in the first couple of days.
Nonetheless, Hansen put together a solid round. He signed off a score of 67, a round containing five birdies and perhaps most pleasingly for him, no bogey blemishes.
Somewhat ominously for his opponents heading into the final day of play, Hansen thinks he left a few shots out on course, per EuropeanTour.com:
I’m very pleased.
I didn’t hit the ball that great today but I made a couple of good putts on the last few holes. I hit a lot of greens but I just didn’t hit it as close as I have done the last couple of days.
It was nice to finish with those three birides - it was a little more windy today so it was more tricky. It was a great finish.
After a stunning 63 on Day 1, Pittayarat has been unable to find that same kind of rhythm on Day 2 or Day 3. He shot a round of 69 here, dropping only his second shot of the week, and despite being reigned in by the chasing pack, the 21-year-old will be hoping to have enough to secure victory on the final day.
A little further down the leaderboard, the challengers for the title could come from the men tied in third position, David Lipsky and Robert-Jan Derksen.
Lipsky, like Pittayarat, started in scintillating fashion, but has faded a little on the two days after. By contrast, Derksen looks to be finding his feet around the course. The Dutchman shot 67 on Day 3, and given his experience, could be one to watch as we enter the final knockings of the tournament tomorrow.
He's set to retire at the end of the campaign and will be desperate to sign off with a win:
Elsewhere, England's Chris Wood could have an outside chance. He's three shots back from the leaders and shot a respectable 68 on Day 3 to continue his consistent week.
A little further down the pack, after being in contention for the first two days, Chilean Felipe Aguilar looks to have fallen out of the running after he could only shoot a score of level par on Day 3. He's trails the leaders by four shots.
Day 2 Recap
After a spectacular opening round in the Championship at Laguna National, Thai golfer Panuphol Pittayarat surged to the top of the leaderboard. Through two rounds, Pittayarat has yet to be knocked from his perch.
According to the European Tour on Twitter, Pittayarat broke a tie atop the leaderboard on his final hole of the day with a birdie to complete a solid round of 68:
Along with Pittayarat, here is a look at the top performers through two rounds thus far:
|The Championship at Laguna--Day 2 Leaderboard|
|Position||Player||Rd 1 Total||Rd 2 Total||Score|
Although Pittayarat wasn't as dominant on Friday as he was in the first round when he racked up nine birdies, he still managed five birdies in the second round. Pittayarat also had just one bogey, which was his first of the tournament.
Even though Pittayarat has been the sole leader through both 18 and 36 holes, he is in for a fight if he intends to prevail on Sunday. A trio of golfers sit just one stroke behind him at 12-under par, and hard-charging Australian Scott Hend is among them.
Hend put himself in the mix in the first round with a respectable five-under 67, but he was able to improve upon that score on Day 2. Hend had the best showing of the day with a 65, which allowed him to move up 15 spots and even gave him a share of the lead for a time, per PGA of Australia:
In addition to Hend, Felipe Aguilar of Chile is a name that bears watching. Aguilar has been quite consistent with a 65 and a 67 to his credit. His second round didn't get off to an ideal start, but Aguilar finished strong, and he feels good about his chances moving forward, according to EuropeanTour.com.
I finished off with three birdies but it was a really cold start today. It took me a while to get the rhythm going and I had a couple of birdies and couple of bogeys. Overall though it was a very good round and the last couple of holes I hit it stiff. I hit it close on 16, made a very good putt on the 17th and then hit the pin on the 18th hole, so I'm very happy.
The third player within the triumvirate that is sitting at 12 under is American David Lipsky. This tournament is light on American players as only three of them are above the projected cut line currently, but Lipsky is carrying the Stars and Stripes in an impressive manner.
He matches Pittayarat's second-round score of 68, and he was just one off the pace with a 64 in the first round, so Lipsky continues to lurk a stroke behind the leader.
Based on how well the golfers have been playing this course, a winning score of 20 under or better seems like a very real possibility. With that in mind, any number of players in the upper portion of the leaderboard could potentially come out on top.
Pittayarat has to be considered the favorite due to how well he has already handled being on top, but Hend may be his biggest competition after such a fantastic second round.
A number of golfers are hoping to make a name for themselves this weekend, so the finish to the Championship at Laguna will be a must-see situation for golf fans across the world.
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Day 1 Recap
The Laguna National course was playing generously on the opening day of play on Thursday, leading to some very low scores.
A threat of lightning delayed proceedings by an hour, but the players were unaffected on Laguna’s par-72, 7,205-yard course. The lack of breeze gave the field the chance to attack Day 1’s pins.
Here’s how the top 10 lined up after the first round:
|The Championship at Laguna National—Day 1 Leaderboard|
Leading the pack is Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat, who put together a remarkable round on a day when his putter was red-hot.
The 21-year-old took just 22 putts on his way to carding a nine-under-par 63, according to the European Tour’s official website, giving him a one-shot lead at the top.
Without a single blemish on his card, Pittayarat epitomised just how favourably the course was playing on Thursday, with 15 players sitting at six under or better as play came to a close.
Among them is Scottish star Scott Jamieson, who sits just one shot back of the Thai leader heading into Friday.
Jamieson chalked up nine birdies but dropped a shot on the par-four 16th to find himself in a tie for second. Following his round, the 30-year-old Glaswegian reflected on his day’s work, per the European Tour's official website:
I’ve been hitting the ball well the last couple of weeks, so it was nice to get a round where it all came together. There was just the one mistake with the three-putt on 16, but it was pretty far away and pace putting is always difficult in Asia with the grain. It’s not what someone from Scotland is used to. There’s not much wind out there and apparently there has been a drought here so there is not much rough either. You can still control the ball when you don’t hit the fairway, so I think everyone will have a lot of looks at birdies; the greens a rolling perfectly too. I’ve been hitting the ball really well since we came out to Asia but today was the first time I really capitalised on that.
After his bogey at 16, Jamieson bounced back with a birdie at the very next hole in some style. After an errant tee shot to the 202-yard par-three 17th, he found himself in a bunker but chipped in magnificently from there to put his round back on track.
If the Scot continues to strike the ball as he did on Day 1, he’ll be right in the mix heading into the weekend, chasing his second European Tour title after winning last year’s Nelson Mandela Championship.
Elsewhere, Arnond Vongvanij came close to sharing the lead with his compatriot Pittayarat at the top of the leaderboard, but he fell to seven under after a double bogey at his 17th hole of the day.
Leading the English charge is Graeme Storm, who carded a 67 to put himself four shots off the lead, while Ross Fisher had a round to forget with a one-over-par 73.
Both Jamieson and Pittayarat will be looking over their shoulders heading into Friday’s action. The chasing pack will be nipping at their heels and trying to establish an advantage heading into the weekend.
If conditions remain the same in Singapore, we could be looking at a record European Tour total come Sunday. But with pressure mounting as the tournament goes on, nothing can be taken for granted.