Panuphol Pittayarat kept up his chase for a first Asian Tour victory after battling to a two-over-par 74 in blustery conditions in the third round of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters on Saturday.
The Thai battled tooth-and-nail under swirling winds with speed of 30 km/h to return on four-under-par 212 to hold a one-shot advantage at the US$800,000 Asian Tour event which is celebrating its 30th edition.
Home favourite Lu Wei-chih carded a 71 for second place as he aims to return to winning ways on the Asian Tour since undergoing brain surgery to remove a non-malignant tumour in mid-2012.
Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung (71), Lin Wen-tang (74) of Chinese Taipei, Danthai Boonma (74) of Thailand and Miguel Tabuena (74) of the Philippines are a further shot back in tied third place on 214 at the Taiwan Golf and Country Club.
The 23-year-old Panuphol, who traded three birdies against five bogeys, was delighted to hold on to his lead as most players struggled to make a move in the tricky playing conditions.
“It was a tough day in office. The wind picked up since morning. It was one of those days when you go out and try to scramble. To be honest, I think I’m ready to win to win my first trophy,” said the Thai.
“I’m in a very good position for Sunday. It was one of those days when it will be rough. I told myself to have fun and learn from it. Everybody is playing in the same conditions so I’m not complaining,” added Panuphol.
Lu, a three-time Asian Tour winner which includes winning the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2005 and 2011, took advantage of his home course knowledge to charge into contention.
“The wind is very strong so I played low ball flights. It is normal for the wind to be blowing this hard here. I’m used to it because this is my home course. When it blows, you can’t judge where the wind is coming from.
“If you asked me a few years ago if I can win, I will tell you that I’m confident. But after my surgery, now I have a different mind-set. I just want to focus on my own game,” said the 37-year-old Lu.
Tabuena, ranked fifth on the Order of Merit, believes patience will be the key to success in the final 18 holes after shooting two birdies against four bogeys today.
“Every shot out here is money. You can’t give up here because you don’t know what the rest of the field will do. You can’t force anything and take your bogeys if you have to. You need to keep creating chances,” said the 22-year-old.
Malaysia’s Fung, who is also searching for a first win, overcame an opening bogey to return with four birdies against two other bogeys to be among five players in the field to break par.
“Today is definitely a different Tamsui as compared to the first two days. My caddy told me that this is an entirely different condition and a three-over might be a good score,” said Fung.
“I want to go out and play. I don’t want to think about winning. When I do that, I put too much pressure on myself. In my position now, it is easier not to think about winning because I’m the one chasing the leader,” he said.
Scores after round 3 of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters 2016 being played at the par 72, 6923 Yards Tamsui Course course (am – denotes amateur):
212 – Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 68-70-74.
213 – LU Wei-chih (TPE) 70-72-71.
214 – Nicholas FUNG (MAS) 71-72-71, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 73-67-74, LIN Wen-tang (TPE) 72-68-74, Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 70-70-74.
215 – Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 70-71-74.
216 – Johannes VEERMAN (USA) 73-71-72, CHAN Shih-chang (TPE) 70-72-74, Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 69-72-75.
217 – Chikkarangappa S. (IND) 71-74-72, Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 69-74-74.
218 – LIN Wen-ko (TPE) 75-74-69, Javi COLOMO (ESP) 71-73-74, HSU Mong-nan (TPE) 71-73-74, LU Wen-teh (TPE) 72-71-75.
219 – David LUTTERUS (AUS) 76-72-71, YEH Wei-tze (TPE) 73-71-75.
220 – Himmat RAI (IND) 72-78-70, Chiragh KUMAR (IND) 74-73-73, Danny CHIA (MAS) 74-72-74, HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 75-71-74.
221 – Scott BARR (AUS) 68-73-80.