Fasth and Furious in Johor

Sat 01 Nov 2008

Fasth and Furious in Johor


Johor Bahru, Malaysia, November 1: Sweden's Niclas Fasth produced a grandstand finish with three closing birdies to snatch a one-shot lead from Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant after the third round of the Iskandar Johor Open on Saturday.

The former Ryder Cup star carded a two-under-par 70 on a tough day at Royal Johor Country Club to put himself in pole position in the US$500,000 Asian Tour event. Thaworn, Asia's most prolific winner with 10 titles, produced an equally impressive back nine for a 69 to stay hot on the leader's heels.


Joint halfway leader Mitchell Brown of Australia overcame a scrappy start before settling for a 72 to lie two back while Malaysia's Iain Steel raised local cheers with a battling 70 for tied fourth place with Kane Webber of Australia, who also carded a 70.

Lurking behind was two-time Major champion Retief Goosen who will enter the last round four off the pace after adding a second successive 69 for tied sixth place with Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand (73), Richard Moir of Australia (70) and Adam Groom of Australia (69).

Fasth, who leads the tournament on 10-under-par 206, was delighted with his superb finish, clenching his fist with delight after he holed a tricky birdie putt on the 18th hole to complete his hat-trick.

"It was a fantastic putt to finish. I had good feelings walking off that green. That was the first time I had a putt of two and half feet that broke a foot. I couldn't risk having a run at it as it could have ended off the green," said Fasth.

A six-time winner in Europe, the 36-year-old was one over par for the day through 10 holes before producing his closing fireworks. He nailed an eight iron to seven feet on the par three 16th hole, chipped it close at the next par five before holing his curler at the last.

"It was the kind of day when nothing happened and it was a matter of being strong and hanging in there. I got a chance to birdie the 16th and I thought if I could hole this one, it would fire me up. And it did as I birdied the last two holes. It was a very strong finish and I was proud of it," said Fasth.

Thai veteran Thaworn, the Asian Tour's number one in 2005, traded one birdie against a bogey on his outward nine before knocking in birdies on the 12th, 14th and 15th holes to give himself a chance of a record 11th career victory.

"I had some luck today. Everyone was making birdies on the 11th hole which played easy but I didn't birdie that hole. However, I chipped in at the 12th, so it was my lucky day.

"The greens here are difficult. It's very hard to read the greens and hole putts. You need a lot of luck. Sometimes you hit a bad putt and you hole it and it can go the other way round as well. I'll need to have a good game plan tomorrow," said Thaworn, who won the Bangkok Airways Open in June.


Nerves got the better of Brown, who is searching for his maiden Asian Tour victory, as he dropped three shots through 12 holes. But the Australian fought back with three birdies.

"I think I was a bit nervous. I'm going to try and have a bit of fun tomorrow and try to hit some good shots. My problem was that I drove the ball poorly. I just need to get the ball onto the fairway, it doesn't matter how I do it. If I can do that, I'll shoot a good score," said Brown.

Like Brown, Steel is searching his maiden win on the Asian Tour and nothing would give him greater pleasure if he does it on home turf at the Iskandar Johor Open. He was one-over for the day through the turn before nailing birdies on the 11th, 15th and 16th holes.

"I saved the round with a strong back nine," said Steel. "This week is a test of the mind rather than abilities and I'm proud of where I am right now. It looks quite crowded at the top. I don't care where my first win comes from but if it comes from here I'll be very happy," he said.

Goosen, US Open champion in 2001 and 2004, stormed to an outward 33 but failed to improve on his score as tough pin placements made life difficult for the field. The South African isn't throwing in the towel just yet.

"Anything can happen. I can shoot six or seven under tomorrow but the leader can shoot six under tomorrow and it won't mean anything. I'm just going to go out and do my best and put a good number on the leaderboard. The putting is not quite there but I'm hitting the ball a lot better," said Goosen.

Leading third round scores

206 - Niclas Fasth (SWE) 68-68-70

207 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 69-69-69

208 - Mitchell Brown (AUS) 67-69-72

209 - Iain Steel (MAS) 70-69-70, Kane Webber (AUS) 68-71-70

210 - Adam Groom (AUS) 72-69-69, Richard Moir (AUS) 69-71-70, Retief Goosen (RSA) 72-69-69, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 71-66-73

211 - Andrew Dodt (AUS) 71-71-69, Gaurav Ghei (IND) 72-71-68, Rick Kulacz (AUS) 67-73-71

212 - Mahal Pearce (NZL) 67-76-69, Neven Basic (AUS) 72-73-67, Panuwat Muenlek (THA) 69-70-73, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 70-66-76

213 - Kodai Ichihara (JPN) 73-71-69, Brad Kennedy (AUS) 72-71-70, Craig Smith (WAL) 65-77-71, Clay Devers (USA) 72-70-71, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 73-69-71, Airil Rizman (MAS) 71-71-71, Artemio Murakami (PHI) 67-72-74

About the Asian Tour

As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia.  This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Carlsberg (Official Beer), ESPN Star Sports (Official Regional TV Broadcaster), Pin High (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider), Sofitel (Official Hotel), TIME and FORTUNE (Corporate Partner) and Srixon (Official Ball). Sentosa, Singapore's premier island resort getaway, is the Home of the Asian Tour.