Local prospect Natthapong Niyomchon fired a sparkling eight-under-par 63 to grab a one-shot lead in the penultimate round of the Asian Development Tour’s (ADT) season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Saturday.
The unheralded Thai, who is chasing for a maiden win on the region’s burgeoning Tour, sank two birdies on second and fifth before going on a birdie blitz with six in a row after the turn.
His only blemish of the day came after a three-putt on 17 but he swiftly recovered with a birdie on the last to lead on an 18-under-par 195 total at the Rancho Charnvee Resort and Country Club, located at the outskirts of Bangkok.
Young Thai Phachara Khongwatmai matched Natthapong’s efforts of a 63 to take second place while countrymen Chinnarat Phadungsil (65), Danthai Boonma (68) and overnight leader Rattanon Wannasrichan (70) shared third on 197 at the 3,000,000 Baht (approx. US$83,000) ADT event.
Reigning ADT Order of Merit champion Pavit Tangkamolprasert carded a 66 to settle three shots off the pace in sixth place with veteran Thongchai Jaidee, who returned with a 68, in what is the final stop of the ADT 2015 season.
Natthapong, who ended a 10-year wait for his first career title when he won in Malaysia two months ago, was delighted to put himself in prime position again for a second professional victory and a first on home soil.
“My driver and iron shots were perfect. I gave myself a lot of chances out there. I made a key putt for birdie from five-feet on second which got my game going. That was the turning point for me today,” said the 27-year-old Thai.
“I made only one mistake on 17 where I three-putted for bogey but I am happy I gained it back with a birdie on 18. Overall, I played really well. My game went very smoothly. Hopefully I can perform well again tomorrow,” added Natthapong.
Teen titan Phachara, who started the day with a six-shot deficit, stormed home with a birdie-eagle finish to haul himself back into contention.
“I was really thrilled when I chipped in for my second eagle of the day on the last! The greens are quite firm today but my game was solid. I am glad to give myself a chance to fight for another win on the ADT tomorrow. I had great fun today,” said the 16-year-old Phachara.
Phachara first broke into prominence when he claimed his maiden ADT win earlier in May and became the youngest winner on the burgeoning Tour which was inaugurated in 2010 as a gateway to the premier Asian Tour.
He hogged the limelight again when he earned a spot in The Open 2016 after finishing in sixth place at the Asian Tour’s Thailand Golf Championship a fortnight ago.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning OWGR points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
The ADT is celebrating its sixth season where it has grown immensely from five events in the first year in 2010 to a record 28 tournaments in 2015.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading third round scores
195 – Natthapong NIYOMCHON (THA) 66-66-63
196 – Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 64-69-63
197 – Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 66-66-65, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 65-64-68, Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 66-61-70
198 – Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA) 64-68-66, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 66-64-68
199 – Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA) 68-66-65, Piya SWANGARUNPORN (THA) 68-64-67, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 65-66-68
200 – Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA) 66-66-68
201 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 68-68-65, Varan ISRABHAKDI (THA) 64-68-69, Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA) 67-64-70
202 – Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 71-64-67, Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 65-68-69, Jordan SHERRATT (AUS) 66-67-69, Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 67-65-70, Kwanchai TANNIN (THA) 64 66 72