Akshay Bhatia fires 65 to rocket into 54-hole co-lead at Junior PGA

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Akshay Bhatia fires 65 to rocket into 54-hole co-lead at Junior PGA

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Akshay Bhatia fires 65 to rocket into 54-hole co-lead at Junior PGA

The defending champion appeared he might have to give up his crown, that is until a scorching third round moved him right to the top.

Akshay Bhatia fired a 7-under 65 at Valhalla Golf Club in the third round of the Junior PGA Championship to jump from seven back to a share of the lead at 7 under overall with William Moll.

A rain delay of more than three hours Wednesday prevented a good deal of the second round from finishing until Thursday morning. Bhatia had opened in 4-under 68 but was 3 over through eight on his second round at the conclusion of Wednesday. That put him five off the lead to start Thursday.

A new day didn’t make things much better, as Bhatia played his final 10 holes in 1 over to put up a second-round 76 and fall seven back by round’s end. But he came back for his third round and was seemingly a new player.

The 16-year-old birdied three of his first four holes and made seven overall in a flawless round that boosted him 20 spots to that tie at the top with one round to go.

Bhatia is looking to add to his impressive win collection that started with a record-setting victory at last year’s Junior PGA.

He followed up in 2018 with triumphs at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley and the Polo Golf Junior Classic (which he won by 10 shots). Bhatia also made it to the final of this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur. His game has progressed so well that he’s mulling forgoing college to turn pro.

For now, he’ll have his eye on another win.

Moll will have something to say about that, as the 17-year-old Vanderbilt commit has produced all sub-par rounds in sharing the 54-hole lead. Alexander Yang is one back at 6 under.

Luke Kluver, the 36-hole leader, fired a third-round 74 but is still in the mix in a tie for fourth at 5 under.

Ricky Castillo, Golfweek‘s top-ranked junior, is tied for 14th at 2 under. Michael Thorbjornsen, who beat Bhatia in that final for the U.S. Junior title, is in a tie for 34th at 3 over.

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