Thai wonder kid Phachara Khongwatmai fired a superb seven-under-par 65 to share the third round lead with Malaysia’s Danny Chia at the PGM CCM Rahman Putra Championship on Friday.
Phachara, who turns 16 in May, shot nine birdies for a 14-under-par 202 total at the Kelab Rahman Putra Malaysia to stay on track in his chase to become the youngest winner on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
Local hope Chia was bogey-free in his round of 66 while Brett Munson of the United States also carded a 66 to trail by one-shot as he seeks a successful title defence at the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) ADT event.
Overnight leader Quincy Quek of Singapore was a further three shots back from the leaders after struggling to a 71.
Phachara holds the record of being the youngest ever player to win a professional tournament when he triumphed at the 2013 Hua Hin Open on home soil as an amateur at the age of 14.
After joining the play-for-pay ranks in August last year, the Thai secured his first win as a professional in Thailand before going on to finish inside the top-40 at the Asian Tour Qualifying School to earn a Tour card.
Phachara showed maturity beyond his young age when he recovered from an opening 71 by shooting 13-under-par in the last two days as he sets his sights on writing a small slice of history on the ADT.
“I was a little bit nervous in the first round but now I’m feeling more confident. My game is improving and I like playing on this course. It won’t be easy on the last day but I will try my best. It will be very exciting for me,” said Phachara.
Chia, Malaysia’s first Asian Tour winner, produced his best round of the week courtesy of his solid ball striking which resulted in six birdies.
“It was the best I hit the ball in the last three days. I made some good par save and that kept the momentum going. It has been a good tournament for me so far but I’ll have to stay focus on the last day,” said the 42-year-old Chia.
Playing in his second year on the ADT, Munson relied on his short game to stay in contention as he was rewarded with five birdies and one eagle against one bogey.
“I’m managing my game well and I’m putting well. I wish my ball striking was a little bit better,” said Munson.
“This is my second year in Asia and I’m more comfortable playing on this type of grass after asking some Malaysian players for some short game tips. I can’t name them all because I’ve asked a few of them!” he laughed.
The ADT will reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2016.
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 Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com
Leading third round scores:
202 – Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 71 66 65, Danny CHIA (MAS) 68 68 66
203 – Brett MUNSON (USA) 68 69 66
204 – Sutijet KOORATANAPISAN (THA) 68 69 67
205 – Quincy QUEK (SIN) 67 67 71
208 – Abel TAM (MAS) 72 67 69, Shane SMITH (USA) 68 69 71
209 – Thammanoon SRIROJ (THA) 68 73 68, KHOR Kheng Hwai (MAS) 70 67 72
211 – Jinwoo PARK (KOR) 75 66 70, Erwan VIEILLEDENT (FRA) 70 71 70, Terumichi KAKAZU (JPN) 72 68 71, KOH Deng Shan (SIN) 73 69 69, Ervin CHANG (A) (MAS) 70 69 72, Jordan SHERRATT (AUS) 67 72 72, Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA) 71 71 69, Casey O’TOOLE (USA) 69 73 69, Dominic FOOS (GER) 69 68 74
212 – Lindsay RENOLDS (CAN) 71 69 72, Sam CYR (USA) 74 69 69, Poosit SUPUPRAMAI (THA) 69 74 69, R. Nachimuthu (MAS) 71 72 69
213 – Jake STIRLING (AUS) 73 67 73, Hans JAMIL (MAS) 71 71 71, Settee PRAKONGVECH (THA) 68 71 74, Atthaphon SRIBOONKAEW (THA) 68 70 75, Sean RIORDAN (NZL) 72 71 70
214 – Nirun SAE-UENG (THA) 72 69 73, Wisut ARTJANAWAT (THA) 73 64 77, Adam BLYTH (AUS) 70 73 71