Bangkok, May 20: Thai prospect Rattanon Wannasrichan closed with a pair of birdies to sign for a flawless six-under-par 65, grabbing the outright lead by one shot in the penultimate round of the US$300,000 Thailand Open on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Thai, who had held a share of the lead in the first two rounds, sank six birdies to stay atop the leaderboard on 17-under-par 196 total at the scenic Thai Country Club. His countryman Panuphol Pittayarat carded a superb 64 to trail by one in second place.
Overnight co-leader Gaganjeet Bhullar of India posted a 67 to take third place on 198 while Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat marked his best efforts of the week with a 65 to stay three shots off the pace in fourth at the Thailand Open.
Malaysia’s Ben Leong returned with a 66 to share fifth place with Terry Pilkadaris (66) of Australia and Thailand’s Pawin Ingkhapradit (68) on 200 at the storied event, which returned onto the Asian Tour schedule this week following an eight-year lapse.
The Thailand Open, inaugurated in 1965, is also the first leg of the newly launched Panasonic Swing, which provides a bonus pool across five designated tournaments.
Did you know?
- Rattanon, who turned professional in 2012, is leading for the first time after 54 holes on the Asian Tour.
- Rattanon is ranked the best putter in the field after three rounds of the Thailand Open. He needed only 1.28 putts per greens in regulation at the Thai Country Club.
- Panuphol claimed his best results on the Asian Tour when he came in runner-up at the 2011 Selangor Masters and tied-second at the 2016 Indonesia Open.
- Panuphol has dropped only one shot so far this week.
- Panuphol, nicknamed ‘Coconut’, turned professional 10 years ago at a young age of 14. He has a brother nicknamed ‘Tamarind’ and a sister nicknamed ‘Lemon’.
- American Brett Munson is the biggest mover on the moving day of the Thailand Open. He carded a superb 62 to propel from tied-50th to tied ninth position on the leaderboard.
- Only three Thais have won the prestigious Thailand Open, which was inaugurated in 1965. They are Suthep Meesawat (1991), Boonchu Ruangkit (1992 and 2004) and Prayad Marksaeng (2013).
- The leading four players on the leaderboard are all in their 20s. Rattanon is the youngest at 21 years old while Panuphol is 24. Gaganjeet turned 29 last month and Kiradech is 27.
- Kiradech and Leong are good friends since their junior days. They will be playing together in the same group in the final round tomorrow.
“I have no expectations. It’s my first time leading into the final round on the Asian Tour. I am really excited. My family will be coming out to watch me play tomorrow. I will just play for fun and we will see how it goes.” – Rattanon Wannasrichan
Rattanon Wannasrichan (Tha) – Third round 65 (-6), Total 196 (-17)
I am really pleased with my bogey-free round today. I hit the ball good. Everything was good and I am putting well again.
I hope I can continue to putt well tomorrow. I am very happy with the way I finished the round. I am not thinking too much about winning. I don’t want to give myself unnecessary pressure. I just want to enjoy my game.
I have no expectations. It’s my first time leading into the final round on the Asian Tour. I am really excited. My family will be coming out to watch me play tomorrow. I will just play for fun and we will see how it goes.
A lot of players have been encouraging me since I took the lead in the first round. Chinnarat (Phadungsil), a player whom I look up to, has asked me to keep up the good work too.
Panuphol Pittayarat (Tha) – Third round 64 (-7), Total 197 (-16)
I have been striking the ball really well for the last three days now. It was the same for me today, I just managed to hole more putts than I did yesterday. I will keep to the same routine, concentrate on my game and focus on my pre-shot routine and the results will come after.
It’s great to be playing well on this golf course, which I call my home course since a month ago. They have great facilities here and they are very supportive by letting me practise. It’s a very nice golf course.
I would love to see a local guy win the Thailand Open, hopefully myself. The local contingent is very strong so I am not surprised that we are all up there. It would mean everything to me if I can win this tournament.
It’s my National Open so I would be very pleased to win it as my first Asian Tour title. The best birdie I had today was on the par-three 16. I hit a very good six-iron right up the pin and got a very difficult lie but I holed the putt from 15 feet.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) – Third round 67 (-4), Total 198 (-15)
I hit the ball really well again today. I have been giving myself a lot of birdie opportunities this week. I left about four to five birdies out there though but overall, I hit the ball really solid, missing only one fairway. I was giving myself a lot of chances although I had three lip-outs today.
It was a hot and humid day. The wind wasn’t an issue today. That’s why you see a lot of low scores out there. At the back of my mind, I do know that I am in contention and I have the opportunity to chase for an eighth win on the Asian Tour.
It’s going to be a good Sunday pairing again but I will be more cautious while playing. I have been in this position for many times. My past experiences will definitely help me tomorrow. Overall I think it’s a great golf course. It’s a ball striker’s paradise.
At the end of the day, if you can putt well, you should be able to bring the trophy home. My goal is to give my 100% tomorrow. Whatever results my 100% gives me tomorrow, I will accept it.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) – Third round 65 (-6), Total 199 (-14)
I am really happy with the way I am striking the ball so far this week. I played solid golf all day. It’s just the putter which didn’t work very good. My iron-play has been really sharp. I haven’t been playing such good golf for two to three months now.
I will keep the confidence level up for the final round and we will see how it goes. I misread a lot of greens today which got me really frustrated out there. The putting stroke wasn’t as good. I missed quite a few putts within 10 feet this week.
I had a superb chip-in on 10. I missed the green by about four yards and chipped it in from about 15 yards to the pin. That was the turning point for me and a huge confidence booster.
Overall, to shoot 65 on moving day is a great motivation for me. I had a good finish today with two birdies in the last three holes. That will give me a lot of confidence for the final round tomorrow. I am three shots behind now. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.
I just want to play my best golf in front of my home crowd and on my home soil this week. I hope one of the Thai players will take the trophy home tomorrow. I will do my best.
Ben Leong (Mas) – Third round 66 (-5), Total 200 (-13)
It was quite tricky out there. I had to stay really patient. I got off to a good start but I just couldn’t convert my birdies. I hung in there nevertheless. I am now looking forward to the final round as I get to play with my good friend Kiradech.
The conditions were pretty much the same today. The greens were trickier than I thought. I am not really thinking about winning actually. I am just excited that I get to play with Kiradech tomorrow.
The plan is to stick to my routine, stay aggressive and remain patient. We will see how it goes tomorrow. It was just a simple round today, nothing really fanciful. I managed to get up and down quite a bit this week. I am hoping to continue the momentum for tomorrow.
Kiradech and I were very good friends since our junior days when we were still amateurs. He’s been helping me a lot, whenever I come to Thailand. When I was out and not playing golf due to my injury, he was very supportive. He comes to see me and talk to me whenever he can.
He was really nice. It was great to see him play well on the European Tour. It really inspires me a lot. Kiradech and I go a long way back.
Scores after round 3 of the Thailand Open being played at the par 71, 7097 Yards Thai CC course (am – denotes amateur):
196 – Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 62-69-65.
197 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 64-69-64.
198 – Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 65-66-67.
199 – Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 66-68-65.
200 – Ben LEONG (MAS) 70-64-66, Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 67-67-66, Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA) 70-62-68.
201 – Scott BARR (AUS) 67-67-67.
202 – Suradit YONGCHAROENCHAI (THA) 71-67-64, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 70-67-65, Jarin TODD (USA) 72-65-65, Brett MUNSON (USA) 72-68-62, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 66-69-67, Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 67-67-68.
203 – Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) 68-68-67, Chanachok DEJPIRATANAMONGKOL (THA) 68-68-67, Simon GRIFFITHS (ENG) 69-66-68, Mitchell SLORACH (SIN) 69-66-68.
204 – Gavin GREEN (MAS) 71-66-67, Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 69-68-67, Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 71-63-70.
205 – Scott HEND (AUS) 69-67-69, Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA) 68-67-70, Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 73-68-64, Thammanoon SRIROJ (THA) 73-68-64.
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