Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai and Bio Kim from Korea both shot four-under-par 68s to take the third-round lead on 14 under in the Trust Golf Asian Mixed Cup today.
They lead by a stroke from Thailand’s rising female star Jaravee Boonchant (66) and her amateur compatriot Ratchanon “TK” Chantananuwat (70) plus American lefthander Paul Peterson (68).
The US$750,000 tournament marks the first time the Asian Tour have staged a mixed event, as it is being jointly sanctioned with the Ladies European Tour (LET).
The stacked leaderboard suggests a thrilling final day tomorrow which will also be a rematch between Phachara and Bio, who played together in the final pairing of the Laguna Phuket Championship in December which the former won.
“I played very well today,” said 22-year-old Phachara, whose win in Phuket was his first victory on the Asian Tour.
“However, I should have done better. I played to my plan. The weather and course conditions did not affect me much because I have planned what to do. In the final round, I will create more opportunities for myself to shoot lower. I will focus more on putting, to make it better. I will just focus on my game and not being the champion.”
The Thai star, currently in second place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, will also be seeking redemption on Sunday as he had a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the International Series Thailand last month but finished runner-up to American Sihwan Kim.
Bio Kim is looking to secure his first title on the Asian Tour. He led the Phuket event by one shot from Phachara before tying for second place.
“It’s going to be a great final round. Phachara is a bomber!” said Bio Kim, who has finished in the top-10 in six of his last seven starts on the Asian Tour.
“I am not going to put pressure on myself, there are so many variables. A win on the Asian Tour would mean so much to me. I have had a great run of results recently so I am not far away.”
Said the Thai youngster: “I definitely felt some pressure today, particularly over some putts. But I am learning all the time. I didn’t play very well and I am not making the putts. But I am now in the penultimate group tomorrow, so that’s an advantage.”
Jaravee, aged 22, shot the lowest round of the day to move into contention.
“The golf course is in great condition. It looks very pretty, and the greens are very nice, the ball is rolling pretty well. I love it and I like how they set it up,” she said.
“I think I hit my driver better today, so I put myself in good positions on the greens and holed a few today too. Most of the birdie putts were quite short because I was in a good position. I am trying not to focus on the outcome, I’m trying to stick to the plan and play how I have been playing this week so far.”
She graduated from Duke University in June last year, turned professional immediately after and claimed her first professional title at Thailand LPGA Masters at the end of last year.
Another of Thailand’s exciting young lady golfers, 17-year-old Chanoknan Angurasaranee carded a 67 and is one shot back in solo sixth.
Four-time Asian Tour winner John Catlin from the United States made the most of moving day by firing a 66 and is just three behind the leaders, in joint seventh.
Last season’s Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Joohyung Kim from Korea carded a 69 and is 10 under, while current number one Sihwan Kim return a 71 and is a shot further behind.