Hakula, Gandon battle with Hakula holding one-shot, 54-hole lead
January 09, 2020
By Laury Livsey, PGATOURLA.COM
- January 09, 2020
- Each day Toni Hakula has shot 35 on El Campeon’s front nine. (PGA TOUR)
HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida—A challenging course became even tougher Thursday during the third round of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s Qualifying Tournament at Mission Inn Resort and Club’s El Campeon Course. With wind gusting to 20 mph, low scores were uncommon—with only two rounds in 60s. Those two scores came courtesy of playing partners Toni Hakula and Jeremy Gandon, and the two Europeans are 1-2 on the leaderboard with 18 holes to play in an event that will help determine 2020 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica membership. Finland’s Hakula and France’s Gandon both shot 69s Thursday to distance themselves from the rest of the field, Hakula is 10-under and Gandon a stroke behind. The next-closest players are at 5-under: Ben Griffin, Austin Squires and Casey Komline.
On the 16th hole, Hakula appeared to take control of the tournament when he hit his approach into the par-4 to 18 inches for the tap-in birdie. That moved him to 11-under, three ahead of Gandon. But on the par-5 17th hole, Gandon hit the pin on his third-shot approach and made his 12-foot birdie putt while Hakula was three-putting for bogey.
The two-shot swing moved Gandon back to within a stroke. After Hakula missed his left-to-right birdie putt on the 18th green, Gandon had a birdie putt of his own up the hill from six feet that could have tied the duo going into Friday. He left the tricky putt short.
“The grain was a little against me and the ball bumped a little to start,” Gandon said of his final two strokes of the round.
After 54 holes, Hakula is still trying to figure out the slow, tricky El Campeon greens. “I three-putted nine and 17, but that’s going to happen on these greens,” Hakula said. “They’re slow, and they’re still wet enough. Then when you’re playing in the last group late in the day, they slow down even more.”
Hakula looked at his even-par 35 on the front nine and walked away happy. “I was very pleased on the front nine to shoot even. [The wind] was blowing, it was blowing hard and some of the holes were very difficult.”
The duo of Hakula and Gandon will again play together, joined by former University of North Carolina golfer Griffin in the final grouping. They tee off at 12:25 p.m. EST. The winner Friday walks away with the privilege of playing in any PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament this season, with the next-10 finishers earning exemptions for the first half of the 2020 season.
Did you know that Toni Hakula only has one sibling, a sister, Anne (pronounced (AW-knee), and like her older brother she played college golf at the University of Texas?
How the Qualifying Tournament Works
There are 100 players remaining from the original 109 who began the week. Below is a breakdown of the various rewards players can earn this week:
Exempt for the entire 2020 season
2nd through 12th (no ties)
Fully exempt for the first half of the 2020 season
13th through 35th (plus ties)
Conditionally exempt for the first half of the 2020 season
Toni Hakula and Jeremy Gandon are the only two players with three rounds in the 60s this week. It’s been a bunch of 69s for the duo, with Gandon shooting nothing but 69s through 54 holes and Hakula firing a 68 in the opening round to go with back-to-back 69s.
Besides being the only players with three rounds in the 60s this week, Toni Hakula and Jeremy Gandon were the only players to break 70 Thursday.
Each day Toni Hakula has shot 35 on El Campeon’s front nine. He has a pair of 3-under 34s on the back nine to go with his first-round, 4-under 33.
Toni Hakula has birdied the par-5 10th and 14th holes each of the first three days. He has a birdie, par and bogey on No. 17, the third back-nine par-5. He has yet to birdie El Campeon’s other par-5, the first hole. Hakula made par there today, something he did in the opening round. He also made bogey there Wednesday.
Conversely, Jeremy Gandon has dominated the first hole in each of his three rounds this week, making three birdies there. The third and eighth holes have given him trouble this week. He is 2-over on the par-4 third, the same on the par-3 eighth.
American Zander Lozano made a nice move Thursday, shooting his second 70 of the week after stumbling with a 2-over 74 in the second round. Lozano began the day in 27th place and is currently tied for 10th with Joshua Rackley, Bennett Wisner and Hunter Richardson, at 2-under.
It’s probably too late at this stage, but American Jared Chinn also had a nice day, improving his score by 14 strokes Thursday. After a 12-over 84 in the second round, Chinn righted the ship with a Thursday 70 that leaves him tied for 60th with 18 holes to play. Prior to his third round, Chinn’s lone birdie of the week came in the first round, at No. 15. In the third round, he made five birdies.
Neal Ajubita, the 2019 medalist at this PGA TOUR Latinoamérica qualifying tournament, is tied for 57th with 18 holes to play, 10 spots worse than when he began the day.
“My game felt the same all day. It’s just the par-5s are easy on the back. Seventeen is tough, but 10 and 14 you can get there in two easily, and you should be able to make birdie on those.” –Toni Hakula
“I feel the back nine is multiple-shots easier, and I knew the scores were going to be higher today.” –Toni Hakula
“I knew Jeremy (Gandon) was playing well. We were both playing well on the back nine, and I think that helped us even more make more birdies.” –Toni Hakula
“The weather is what it was. I assumed scores were going to be worse, so I figured both of us were in a good spot.” –Toni Hakula on the wind dying down in the afternoon while he was playing the back nine
“I’m not really paying attention. It’s only the third round, and the first thing you want to do is be in the top 11 at the end of the tournament. If you can get the win, then that’s good too.” –Jeremy Gandon
“The wind was helping a bit on the last few holes. The wind is on the good side, and even if it’s stronger that’s fine. It’s on the first four holes when you want it to slow down.” –Jeremy Gandon on the challenge of playing in the wind
“The front nine was very challenging. First of all, the front nine is a bit tougher, with only one par-5. On the back nine you have three par-5s—one, two, three, four, with the wind blowing hard. They are pretty tough holes, and I thought I played pretty well today.” –Jeremy Gandon
Tournament Fast Fact
Another Qualifying Tournament is taking place this week, in Weston, Fla., at The Club at Weston Hills. PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s other two qualifiers will be played in Mazatlán, Mexico (January 14-17), and Buenos Aires, Argentina (January 28-31).
Third-Round Weather Report
Warmer in the morning. Players teed off with the temperature at 57. Sunny and warm in the afternoon. High reached 76. Wind ESE at 10-14 mph, with gusts to 16 mph.