Presnell on top midway through third round of rainy Panama Championship

By
PGA.com news services

Series:

Alistair Presnell snuck in one last birdie before darkness fell on the weather-plagued Panama Claro Championship Saturday evening. Presnell canned a six-footer at the par-5 12th hole to reach 11 under par and take temporary possession of the third round lead in the opening event on the 2011 Nationwide Tour schedule.

The tournament has been hampered by early afternoon storms that have kept each of the first three rounds from being completed on time. Only 24 of the 64 players who made the cut, which didn’t come until early Saturday afternoon, managed to finish the third round. The remaining 40 will return Sunday morning to finish Round 3 and then, hopefully, everyone will start and complete the final round. Sunday’s winner will collect $99,000.

2011 PANAMA CLARO CHAMPIONSHIP

The Panama Claro Championship is the season-opening event on the 2011 Nationwide Tour.

Presnell is the leader of the pack, for now. The former air conditioning mechanic from Australia was 5 under for the day before play was halted for good just before 6:30 p.m. ET.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty good all tournament, apart from the first five holes of it,” said Presnell, who was 2 over through five holes before the first weather stoppage on Thursday afternoon. “I’ve been hitting it good ever since. Today was no different. I’ve been hitting my irons in reasonably close and giving myself a number of opportunities. It’s been a good two and a half days.”

Presnell leads by two over Kyle Reifers and Erik Compton, who shared the 36-hole lead with former U.S. Amateur Champion Danny Lee. Reifers and Compton are even after 10 holes and 9 under for the tournament.

At 8 under par and at various points around the golf course are Steve Wheatcroft, Elliot Gealy, Kyle Thompson and Scott Sterling.

Lee is in a group of four players at 7 under and currently four back. The 20-year-old from New Zealand was cruising along nicely and had it to 12 under par and held the lead through eight holes before disaster struck on the dogleg-left ninth.

Lee’s tee shot hit a tree and bounced out of bounds to the left. His next one wound up in the same trees, which blocked his direct path to the green. His fourth was long and right of the putting surface where he needed a drop from the cart path. After finally getting on, he three-putted from 45 feet for a quadruple-bogey 8.

“Everything went wrong on 9 and 10,” said Lee, who subsequently bogeyed No. 10. “I though I hit a good tee shot on nine. I got lucky that I am stopping right now instead of keep playing. If I keep going, there’s no guarantee. When you’re on fire and everything’s going well, you don’t want to stop, but I was struggling the last two holes and I think it’s a good thing that I got to stop.”

South Carolina’s Tommy Biershenk tops the list of those who have completed 54 holes. The former Clemson standout posted a 4-under 66 and is in at 6-under 204.

Saturday Third-Round Notes:

--Third-round play was suspended at 3:45 p.m. and resumed at 4:10 p.m. as a fast-moving thunderstorm passed nearby. Players were called in off the course but returned quickly to the course.  Play was suspended due to darkness at 6:25 p.m.

--Players will return to the course Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m. and finish the third round. Fourth-round tee times will run from approximately 10:00 a.m. to noon. Play will be in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees.

Roberto Castro played the first 36 holes without a bogey but suffered a bogey-5 on his opening hole this afternoon.

Saturday Second-Round Notes:

-The second round resumed at 8:00 a.m. with 66 players returning to finish play. The round was completed at 12:40 p.m.

--A total of 64 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-over-par 141. This is the seventh time in the tournament’s eight-year history that the cut has been over par. Last year’s cut was a record 1 under par. The second-round scoring average for the par-70 course was 70.679.

--This is the first time in the tournament’s eight years that there are co-leaders after 36 holes. In each of the first seven seasons there was an outright leader at the halfway point.

--Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee of New Zealand birdied four of his final six holes for a 5-under 67 and a share of the 36-hole lead.

--Erik Compton birdied two of his final three holes for a 67 and a share of the second-round lead. Compton was also part of a three-way tie after 18 holes.

--Players who were bogey-free in the second round: Danny Lee (65), Greg Owen (67), Alistair Presnell (65), Andrew Svoboda (67), Tyrone Van Aswegan (67), Robert Castro (69).

--Roberto Castro 65-69--134 (6 under) is the only player without a bogey over the first two days.

--Kyle Reifers and Erik Compton lead the field with 12 birdies each through two rounds.