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Bhatia sets Rolex TOC pace; Melton takes over girls' lead
Akshay Bhatia (Golfweek photo)
Akshay Bhatia (Golfweek photo)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2018) – One thing remained consistent Wednesday at the AJGA’s Rolex Tournament of Champions: Akshay Bhatia is still the one setting the pace. As the leaderboard shuffled beneath him at PGA National – and as the lead changed in the girls division – Bhatia started pulling away.

Bhatia, the AJGA Rolex Player of the Year, logged a third-round 4-under 68 to reach 13 under for 54 holes. He now leads by five shots.

Bhatia, who won three national junior golf tournaments since his 2017 appearance at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, is looking to continue his stretch of successful golf that includes winning two silver medals at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

During his Rolex Junior Player of the Year campaign in 2018, Bhatia never finished outside the top 15, collecting runner-up finishes at the Scott Robertson Memorial, U.S. Junior and the Junior Players.

“I had a lot of fun playing again with Karl [Vilips] and Canon [Claycomb,] we always have fun when we are paired together,” Bhatia said. “Hopefully I can just stay loose and get the job done tomorrow.”

Mason Cup organizer Canon Claycomb of Bowling Green, Ky., moved into second with five birdies on the front nine during the third round. The Alabama verbal commit and three-time Rolex Junior All-American finished runner-up at the 2017 Rolex Tournament of Champions.

First-round leader Karl Vilips and Joseph Pagdin are in third at 7-under 208.

In the girls’ division, leader Alexa Melton played a composed third round with three birdies to an early bogey. The high school senior looks to improve on her 2017 Rolex Tournament of Champions finish (ninth) after a successful 2018 season.

“I just kept things really consistent out there today, that was my main focus coming into this tournament,” Melton said. “I had a super lucky chip in on 18 to close the round, so that was nice.”

Yuka Saso of Manila, Philippines, sits in second at 2-under 214. Saso, the 2018 Thunderbird International Junior champion, is playing in her first Rolex Tournament of Champions.

Virginia verbal commit Amanda Sambach sits at 1-under 215. The 16-year-old played the Bear Trap in 2-under par thanks to birdies on Nos. 15 and 17.

ABOUT THE Rolex Tournament of Champions

One of the AJGA series of tournaments that require an invitation to participate. Format is 72 holes of stroke play, with boys and girls competitions.

View Complete Tournament Information

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