Seongnam, Korea: Finland’s Janne Kaske and Taehee Lee of Korea extended their overnight one-shot lead to four after signing for matching three-under-par 68s in the penultimate round of The 38th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Kaske surged into the outright lead after firing four birdies to turn in 32. He dropped a shot on the 11th hole but made it up with a birdie on 16th where he hit an incredible bunker shot to about 20 feet before nailing the putt.
However, Kaske would relinquish his sole possession of the lead after dropping another shot on the par-three 17th. He now shares it with Lee with their three-day total of nine-under-par 204s at the fabled Namseoul Country Club.
Young Thai talent Phachara Khongwatmai battled to a 70 to move into third place with Hyungjoon Lee of Korea, who returned with a second straight 69, at the KR₩1,200,000,000 (approx. US$1,067,000) event, which is celebrating its 38th edition this week.
Korea’s Sanghyun Park, highest-ranked player in the field, kept his hopes of a successful title defence alive as he battled to a 69 to lurk five shots back in fifth place alongside countrymen Junwon Park and Innchoon Hwang. Park is also chasing for an unprecedented treble in the storied event.
Kaske, who won twice on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in 2015, is standing on the verge of his maiden title on the region’s premier Tour. He secured his Asian Tour card thanks to a stellar season on the ADT in 2018.
Lee, a two-time winner on the local circuit, marked his card with four birdies and a bogey to stay in control at the event, co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the Korea Golf Association. The 34-year-old had held a share of the lead since the opening round.
After stumbling with a double-bogey on the fifth, Phachara recovered with a birdie on the ninth to turn in 37. He would return home with two birdies in his closing four holes to give himself a chance at improving on his tied-12 finish last year.
Did you know?
Janne Kaske, who turned professional in 2011, won twice on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) in 2015. He is currently based in Bangkok, Thailand.
Off the course, Kaske is an avid guitarist. He is also a graduate of the Augusta State University, where he played in the same team alongside Patrick Reed for a semester before graduating.
His best result on the Asian Tour so far is a fifth-place finish at the Bangladesh Open in 2015.
He notched a total of eight top-10 finishes on the ADT last year to finish in fifth place on the Order of Merit, thereby earning his playing rights on the Asian Tour for 2019.
Kaske failed to make the mark in his first attempt at the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2012. He returned for another shot in 2015, where he would top the class in the first stage but missed the grade in the final stage. Kaske, however, started plying his trade on the ADT that year and captured two titles.
He continued to ply his trade on the ADT in 2016, 2017 and 2018 after missing consecutive attempts at the Qualifying School. A solid season on the ADT in 2018 finally earned him playing rights on the Asian Tour in 2019.
Taehee Lee trained under Korean legend Sangho Choi, a two-time winner of the Maekyung Open, at the Namseoul Country Club from 2003 to 2010.
Lee entered the week on the back of a tied-sixth place result on his domestic circuit. Also enjoyed a solid season in 2018, claiming one victory and four top-10 finishes on his domestic circuit.
Lee won the Genesis Championship in 2018 for his second professional victory. That win earned him two starts on the PGA Tour - The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges last October and the Genesis Open in February earlier this year.
The 34-year-old Lee claimed his first career victory in 2015. He came in tied-55th at the 2018 Maekyung Open.
Phachara Khongwatmai enjoyed a tied-12th place finish at the Maekyung Open last year.
He became the youngest winner of a professional tournament when he won on home soil in July 2013 at the age of 14. Came into prominence when he won the 2015 PGM CCM Rahman Putra Championship to become the youngest ADT winner at the age of 15.
Phachara finished a career-high third place on the Asian Tour Merit standings in 2017, thanks to four top-five finishes which include three runner-up results.
The Thai grabbed the last Asian Tour card on offer in 2015 when he won his second ADT title at the season-ending event to take the fifth spot on the ADT Order of Merit.
No past winners of the Maekyung Open has successfully defended their title in the tournament’s 37-year history and no player has won the tournament more than twice. Sanghyun Park has a chance to break these two records.