Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat birdied the last hole to pull three shots clear after signing for a four-under-par 68 in the third round of the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation on Saturday.
Starting the round one shot back, Kiradech fired an eagle and six birdies against a double-bogey and two bogeys to regain top spot with a three-day total of 12-under-par 204 at the ฿4 million (approximately US$120,000) Asian Development Tour (ADT) event. The 28-year-old Kiradech, highest-ranked Thai in 60th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), also put himself in prime position to win the tournament for the second time since 2015 at the Siam Country Club’s Waterside course.
With nine OWGR points afforded to the winner this week, a victory will help Kiradech edge closer to breaking into the world’s top-50 at the end of the season and earn his second appearance at The Masters in 2018.
“My putting is still very good today. But overall, it’s still not my ‘A’ game yet. I hope to play better tomorrow and win the title again,” said Kiradech, who was crowned the Asian Tour Order of Merit champion in 2013.
Kiradech’s highlight of the day came on the par-five ninth hole where he sank a seven-feet eagle putt after hitting his second shot with a six-iron 230 yards downwind. The burly Thai had held the opening lead after starting his campaign with a course record 65.
“It was fun playing with Pannakorn. I had a slow start but the birdies on the fourth and fifth holes gave me a lot of confidence heading into the round. I hit good wedge shots to within two feet to make birdies there,” Kiradech added.
Overnight leader Pannakorn Uthaipas of Thailand, placed second on the current money list, battled to a 72 to sit in second place. American John Catlin and Oscar Zetterwall of Sweden carded matching rounds of 70s to stay four shots off the pace in third.
Two-time Asian Tour winner Prom Meesawat of Thailand returned with a 71 to share fifth place on 210 with American Seungjae Maeng, who signed for a 72, at the third edition fo the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation.
With the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation being the penultimate event of the 2017 ADT season, players will have everything to play for as they continue to battle for the ADT Order of Merit crown as well as the five Asian Tour cards on offer for the 2018 season.
The leading five players on the final ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2018.