Thailand’s Varanyu Rattanaphiboonkij extended his lead by eight shots after shooting a one-under-par 69 in the third round of the Singha Laguna Phuket Open on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Thai, who has led since round one, put himself in prime position for his first professional win. He leads on 18-under-par 192 at the award-winning Laguna Phuket course.
New Asian Development Tour (ADT) winner Nitithorn Thippong, who was victorious last week, posted a 70 to sit in second place while Mathiam Keyser of South Africa returned with a 68 for third place, nine shots back of the leader.
Pawin Ingkhapradit registered a 67 for fourth place in a leaderboard which was mostly dominated by Thai golfers in the event sanctioned by the ADT and the All Thailand Golf Tour.
Varanyu played superbly in the first two rounds but he struggled with his tee shots and a cold putter in a round of two birdies against one bogey.
“I was struggling with my drives today and hitting it left and right. I couldn’t make any birdies in the first nine too so when I made the 15-footer for birdie on hole 10 I was very relieved. I hit a really good approach on hole 14 with my five-iron but I missed the five-footer for eagle. Overall my putting was not as good today,” said Varanyu.
“I think hole 16 was a tough hole because the pin position today was crazy. It was right in behind a bunker so you had to hit it to the middle of the green and play it safe. I hit my shot left of the green and duffed my first chip, so I had to two-putt from off the green,” added the Thai who is nicknamed ‘Bank’.
Compatriot Nitithorn was disappointed not to close the gap on his compatriot Varanyu after trading three birdies against as many bogeys. The young Thai currently sits in third place on the ADT Order of Merit and hopes to cement his position with a solid result on Sunday.
“A lot of the pins today were on slopes and I had to play it safe and hit it to the middle of the green a lot. I struggled with my driver today too and I only made six fairways,” said the 21-year-old Nitithorn.
Nitithorn will apply the same game plan which helped him to victory on the ADT in Malaysia last week.
“I enjoyed playing and watching Bank today. He played so well and I am happy to be playing with him in the final group tomorrow. I just need to think like how I did last week and make as many pars as I can and we’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” added the Thai.
Thailand’s Phanuvich Onchu had reason to celebrate after acing the eighth hole from 188 yards with a six-iron. He returned with a round of 70 but his hole-in-one earned him a bottle of wine, a two-night stay at Cassia Hotel and a complimentary round of golf at Laguna Golf Phuket.
The Singha Laguna Phuket Open is the eighth leg of the 2018 ADT. Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points are offered on all ADT events with the winner earning a total of six OWGR points while the top-six players and ties earn points on a sliding scale.
The leading five players on the ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn playing rights on the premier Asian Tour for the 2019 season.
Leading round three scores
192 – Varanyu RATTANAPHIBOONKIJ (THA) 62 61 69
200 – Nitithorn THIPPONG (THA) 64 66 70
201 – Mathiam KEYSER (RSA) 66 67 68
202 – Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA) 66 69 67
204 – Worrasorn SUWANPANANG (THA) 68 67 69
205 – Kasidit LEPKURTE (THA) 75 66 64, Kwanchai TANNIN (THA) 69 68 68, Hein SITHU (MYN) 68 68 69, John Michael O’TOOLE (USA) 65 71 69, Oscar ZETTERWALL (SWE) 64 67 74