Tullo right on the mark in Madeira

5/18/2013 6:16:14 PM
Mark Tullo  (Getty Images)
Mark Tullo (Getty Images)
Mark Tullo is in pole position to claim a maiden European Tour title as the Chilean edged into a one-shot lead after an intense battle of wits in the third round of the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal – BPI at Clube de Golf do Santo da Serra.

The Santiago native played in the final group alongside the second round leader Craig Lee and Peter Uihlein, who carded a stunning 64 on the second day to move into contention, and the lead was exchanged back and forth between the three throughout the day.

In much more favourable conditions at the spectacular Madeira 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.

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 three 17th, thanks to a difficult birdie putt from 10 feet which rolled in for a four under par 68.

That moved the two-time Challenge Tour winner one shot clear of both Lee and Uihlein on 12 under par and he was delighted with his round.

“I played really good today,” he 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.

“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 Open de España in April, Lee entered the final day two shots off the lead but fell to a 78, while Uihlein and Tullo were in with a shout of winning the Tshwane Open and Africa Open, respectively, before both settling for top five 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.

“We were just three really relaxed guys and we’re were cheering each other up and complimenting each other’s shots so it’s always nice to play with good people.

“We were all going this way and that way so it makes it a fun game for the three of us. I'm pretty relaxed and I know the other guys are so we’ll just see what happens.”

Lee, meanwhile, 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,” said the 34 year old, who signed for a two under third round of 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.”

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 ten under par, but a three under par third round 69 was enough to keep him within touching distance of a maiden professional title.