Collins, Streelman share Puerto Rico lead

Kevin Streelman is tied for the lead at 12 under in the third round of the rain-delayed Puerto Rico Open.

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – Chad Collins is getting used to surging to the top of the Puerto Rico Open leaderboard with his strong short game just before darkness suspends play in the rain-delayed competition.

Just before the horn suspended third-round play Sunday, Collins birdied the par-5 fifth hole as night descended over Trump International Golf Club-Puerto Rico. With the clutch shot, he claimed a share of the lead at 12 under with Kevin Streelman, who also made a last-minute birdie on the par-4 seventh hole.

“Just late in the day, and I guess I’m pretty loose,” Collins said after staying atop the leaderboard for the second straight day on the scenic par-72 course framed by the Atlantic and the tropical El Yunque rain forest.

On Saturday, Collins eagled the par-5 second hole to top the leaderboard at 9 under before second-round play was suspended. The former Methodist College player’s strong putting and bunker play are giving him his best position after any round on tour.

Collins finished second on the Nationwide Tour money list in 2009, a year after his rookie season on the PGA Tour.

Derek Lamely, 7 under for 13 holes in the round, was a stroke back at 11 under with Steve Wheatcroft and Kris Blanks. Wheatcroft played six holes in the third round, and Blanks completed seven.

Lamely, No. 4 on the 2009 Nationwide Tour money list, seemed easy to overlook in the Puerto Rico Open until he vaulted up the leaderboard with his Saturday scoring assault. He strung together strong shots from tee to green.

“I’ve got greens like this at home. So for whatever reason, I feel like my lines are good. My speed is pretty good here. Just a good fit,” said Lamely, who tied for 13th last year in the Puerto Rico event.

Lamely credited his Saturday surge with getting more rest lately than he had been.

“My brain’s working a little better. I just think I just jot so beat up there for a little while, just traveling all the time,” he said.

His strategy on Monday? “Make a lot of birdies,” Lamely said.

The Puerto Rico Open got off to a soggy start Thursday, with only 18 players able to tee off that day because of drenching rain. It was the first suspension of play in the history of the young tournament, now in its third year. The weather woes continued Friday.

The tropical course began to dry out Saturday under a day of strong Caribbean sunshine. But because of previous days’ soggy conditions, players were allowed to use preferred lies in the fairways. The maintenance crew worked through the night with squeegees and pumps to sop up the water.

A few players voiced surprise that the course wasn’t soggier than it was, after the deluge leading up to the tournament and the first two day of competition.

“It’s actually surprising how much drier it is. It’s still very wet out there, but it’s getting to the point where we don’t need to take it 15 yards to get out of casual water,” said Australia’s James Nitties, who was in a 6-way tie for sixth place at 10 under.

It also helped that the cut came at 2-under 142, with 70 players moving on to the third round. Among those headed home were Greg Kraft, who won the first Puerto Rico Open in 2008 with a 14-under finish, and the highest ranked player, South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini, No. 55.

Last year’s Puerto Rico Open champ, Michael Bradley, was still in the hunt. He shot 3 under for the day and was tied 12th place at 9 under.

The competition, which was scheduled to end Sunday, will stretch into Monday due to the rain delays. The winner will earn $630,000.

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