SANTO ANTONIO DA SERRA, Portugal -- Mark Tullo of Chile shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after the third round of the Madeira Islands Open on the European Tour.
Tullo birdied four of his last eight holes on the Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra course for a 12-under total of 204. Overnight leader Craig Lee of Scotland and American Peter Uihlein were tied for second, while Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden and Morten Orum Madsen of Denmark were another three shots back.
Some golfers had to complete their second round in the morning after it was suspended late Friday because of bad weather.
Tullo played in the final group alongside Uihlein and second-round leader Lee, and the lead was exchanged back and forth between the three throughout the day.
In favorable conditions at the spectacular seaside venue, Tullo got straight into the mix from the off as a birdie at the first hole elevated him to the top of the leaderboard alongside Lee. And a bogey from the Scotsman at the second meant Tullo jumped into the outright lead, but it was only a brief sojourn as Lee proceeded to birdie the next two to regain the lead.
The 34-year-old remained at the summit until the 14th hole, when Tullo carded a fourth birdie of the day before he seized the initiative with another at the par-3 17th, thanks to a difficult birdie putt from 10 feet that rolled to close out his 68.
“I played really good today,” Tullo said. “I had a good back nine and the putter worked pretty well for me. I hit 17 greens for the third consecutive day and that’s the key on this golf course.
“I had one bad drive which resulted in a bogey, but I'm really happy with the way I'm playing, shot-by-shot and day-by-day,” he explained. “There will be no different strategy here tomorrow, I just want to hit the same shots and do the same things and we’ll see what happens.”
All three of the players in an identical final group on Sunday have recent experience of being in contention on the final day, but are still waiting to enter the winners’ circle on the European Tour.
At the Spanish Open in April, Lee entered the final day two shots off the lead but fell to a 78. Uihlein and Tullo were in with a shout of winning the Tshwane Open and Africa Open, respectively, before both settling for top-5 finishes.
“I have been there a couple of times this year, so I think that’s good for your confidence,” said Tullo. “You’re not scared because you’ve been there before and that’s a positive thing. I'm feeling confident and that’s a major thing for all golfers. I think I'm there with my game at the moment and I'm feeling good. I just need to be patient and see what happens.”
Lee is glad to be back in contention in a European Tour tournament and thinks he will have learned from his disappointing final day experience last month.
“I'm still playing very well so as long as I keep striking it like that I've got a good chance and hopefully I can roll a few in and see what happens,” he said after signing for his third-round 70. “I don’t feel under as much pressure after Spain, I’ll be a little bit easier on myself and I know what I need to do now when I get into this position. I just have to keep doing what got me here.”
Former Oklahoma State star Uihlein, meanwhile, could not quite live up to his heroics on Friday, when he briefly threatened a 59 after negotiating the opening 12 holes in 10 under par. But a 3-under 69 was enough to keep him within touching distance of his first professional title.