The SMBC Singapore Open is set for a gripping finale on Monday morning with world number one Jordan Spieth breathing down the neck of leader Song Younghun.
The 50th staging of the iconic tournament was heading towards a compelling climax before massive galleries on Sunday afternoon when Mother Nature took a hand as both players approached crucial putts on the closing holes.
Spieth, two shots behind, faced a five-foot birdie putt on the 18th and Song was standing over a 10-footer to save par on 16 when the hooter sounded to halt play and the two of them looked simultaneously towards the rain-filled sky in frustration.
After a delay of three hours and fifteen minutes because of lightning activity in the area, play was called off for the day and the combatants will return to the Serapong Course at Sentosa Golf Club at 7.30am on Monday morning for the final denouement.
Spieth said he was looking to secure his birdie at the final hole to put pressure on Song.
“My game really started to come together on the back nine. I was putting some pressure on the leader,” said the Masters and US Open champion.
“Assuming I make that putt on 18 that is going to put some pressure on.”
The incoming storm changed the way Spieth played the final hole making an eagle almost impossible.
“I was a bit surprised on the 18th tee,” said the 22-year-old American superstar.
“Literally when I hit the tee shot the wind changed completely and the hole went from driver, three iron to driver, three iron and sand wedge and took eagle out of the equation.
“That was because the storm was coming. It is what it is. I will come back tomorrow and try and win this thing.”
Song, who was 12-under for the tournament when play was halted, was sanguine about coming back on Monday to finish off the tournament.
“I am really tired, it has been a long wait. Coming back tomorrow is okay for me as the course should be in a better condition (less wet),” said the 24 year old who is looking for his first victory.
“Tomorrow I will just play shot by shot and hope I can get the win. I have had a lot of second place finishes and it is time for a victory.
“I played well today, quite steady. I was somehow a little nervous. I had a little trouble with long putts – luckily I was able to save the par (on several occasions).
China’s Liang Wenchong, runner up behind Ian Poulter of England in the 2009 Singapore Open, showed again that he is right at home on the Serapong Course by carding a two-under-par 69 for a total of 10-under 274 before play was halted.
He could still figure in a playoff depending on how the action unfolds over the final holes on Monday.
It was an intriguing final round battle with world number 204 Song holding his nerve and keeping his nose in front with rock solid play while Spieth, five shots behind at the start of the round, ate into his lead with five birdies and a sole bogey in 17 holes.
The Korean birdied the par five fourth but gave the shot back at the seventh. He put more daylight between himself and Spieth with a birdie at the 11th before carding four straight pars.
Spieth vowed before the round to be more aggressive with his putting and that approach paid off with birdies at the second, fourth, eighth and 11th. His sole blemish was at the fifth hole where he missed an eight foot par putt.
His magical powers were in evidence at the 15th hole where an unlikely birdie brought him to within two strokes of Song.
A wild tee shot ended in the rough with trees blocking his route to the green. After looking at his options, he punched his approach under the trees and the ball rolled to 12 feet from the pin.
His successful birdie putt brought a roar of approval from the two thousand strong gallery that sent a message to Song – playing two groups behind – that the world’s best player in 2015 was on a charge.
Spieth was disgusted at himself after missing the green at the par-three 17th but a 10-foot par save prompted a fist bump with his caddy-for-the-week Jay Danzi.
Shintaro Kobayashi of Japan, two shots behind Song at the start of the final round, drew level with birdies at the opening two holes. He bogeyed the next and matched Song’s birdie at the fourth before dropping back with a double bogey at the fifth hole.
When play was halted Kobayashi was three strokes behind Song with three holes to complete while countryman Hideto Tanihara is three adrift of the leader playing the 18th.
Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines, one of the biggest prospects in Asian golf, has also to finish the final hole. Three under par for 17 holes, he is also three shots in arrears.
Liang put pressure on leader Song with two birdies on the front nine but a three-putt bogey on the 12th stalled his progress. He picked up another shot at the 15th before parring in.
“I three-putted on 12 and that was a very costly bogey. But I also missed several makeable birdie opportunities and I’m regretting it now,” said the 37 year old who has won multiple times in Asia.
“But overall, a 10-under score is still very respectable especially on this golf course. I’ve played well at this course on numerous occasions. Although I’ve yet to win here, it’s still a course that suits my game and hopefully I can get the job done the next time.”