Turk Pettit is in the process of putting together far and away the best tournament of his short professional career after shooting an incredible, bogey-free 10-under 62 to take the third-round lead at the St Andrews Bay Championship.
Eight birdies and an eagle left him one short of the course record – set by Scotland’s Ewan Ferguson last year – but gave him a one-shot lead, at 17 under, over Australian Matt Jones, of Ripper GC, who fired a 66.
India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar (65), Torque GC's Mito Pereira from Chile (67) and South African Jaco Ahlers (68) are next best placed, two back from Petit, on a day of remarkably low scoring, that saw 10 eagles made, on the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews.
Overnight leader, Torque GC's David Puig, had a four-shot lead after eight, but thereafter the wheels unexpectedly came off. Poor tee shots on nine, 14 and 16 led to a triple bogey and then two double bogeys respectively. He fired a disappointing 73 and is on 13 under.
Pettit, 24, has only made three cuts in nine starts this season on the Asian Tour, with his best finish coming in the International Series Vietnam, where he tied for 34th, but he looks like turning the corner this week.
“Hit it in position and made a lot of putts, so it’s easy when you do that, but man, it was a great day, it’s what you work for,” said the American from Louisiana, who turned professional in 2021 after winning the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship.
He has tasted victory twice since turning professional, in just his third start at the Birck Boilermaker Classic, and again a month ago when he claimed the Colorado Open.
He added: “I’m finally starting to hit the ball a bit better. I’ve worked really hard on my putting as well, and today it paid off. So, I’ve been working hard, and you know, the Colorado Open was… It’s been about two years since I’ve won a golf tournament, so winning that Open was a big deal for me.”
Jones, the two-time Australian Open champion, recovered from a poor start, that saw him bogey the second and third, by making three birdies on the trot from sixth, and another three in a row from 10, then two more on 15 and 18.
“It was just really a couple of bad shots on the second and third hole,” he explained.
“After that I just gave myself plenty of birdie chances. I just say my pace has been off pretty much all week. So, I’m gonna do some work.”
Bhullar is another who yet to fire this season but will be delighted to be in contention this week.
He said: “It was a smooth sail, made eight birdies and one bogey. I actually got off to a really good start. I was just thinking about my whole round, I think I ended up hitting 16 greens in regulation today and the first 15 they were all greens in regulation, missed only one fairway today.
“It was a class act. You know, it was the way I drove the ball well, the way I putted, I was quite proud of myself. Actually, the last few months I’ve been trying to work on my game. I’ve been trying to figure out my loose ends and I guess today was one of those rounds when everything came together, and the result was seven under par.”
He is the most winningest Indian on the Asian Tour, and a win tomorrow would be his 11th.
American Berry Henson achieved the rare feat of making back-to-back eagles on the par-five sixth and the par-four seventh. He hit a four iron to four feet on the sixth, then a driver to two feet on the next. He fired a 65 and is in a tie for 15th on 11 under.
He said: “Back-to-back eagles today were amazing, and I think it might have been a first for me, I’m not really sure. I will look back in the history books, but, yeah, I love the golf course.”
Earlier in the day, his compatriot Andy Ogletree – winner of last week’s International Series England and leader of both the Asian Tour and International Series merit lists – appeared to be playing his way back into the tournament lying seven under for his round reaching the 18th, but dropped his only shots of the day there, a double-bogey seven, to card a 67 and finish eight under for the tournament.