Changhwa, Chinese Taipei, June 24: Thai prospect Pannakorn Uthaipas continued his red-hot form by carding a second straight five-under-par 67 to stay ahead of the chasing pack following the penultimate round of the US$160,000 Taifong Open on Saturday.
Chasing for a maiden Asian Development Tour (ADT) win, the 26-year-old Pannakorn fired five birdies against two bogeys before pulling off a birdie-eagle finish to lead by two shots with a three-day total of 10-under-par 206 at the Taifong Golf Course.
Asian Tour stalwart Lin Wen-tang kept alive the local hopes as he matched the day’s efforts of Pannakorn to move into second place with countryman Hsu Hao-sheng (67), American Blake Snyder (69) and Phanuvich Onchu (67) of Thailand on 208.
Overnight leader Sattaya Supupramai of Thailand returned with a 73 and slipped thee shots off the pace to sixth place with compatriots Gunn Charoenkul (68) and Sorachut Hansapiban (72), as well as Steve Lewton (69) of England.
Pannakorn lamented his poor approach shots but took pride in his acute short game which puts him in pole position following a round of one eagle and five birdies against two bogeys.
“I putted very well again today. I am feeling good with my short game. I had some misses with my second shots but I was able to recover with my chipping and putting,” said Pannakorn, who had a chip-in eagle from 15 yards on the 18.
Pannakorn, who came in tied-second at the 2014 Taifong Open, reckoned hitting solid drives off the tees will be key to conquering the challenging Taifong Golf Course for his breakthough win on Sunday.
“I know how important tee shots are on this course. If you can hit it on the fairways, the worse you get is a bogey. If you hit a bad tee shot, you can easily make double or triple-bogey. I will continue to focus on hitting good off the tee and keep giving myself opportunities for birdies.
“I really love this course. I don’t know why. I know this is a challenging course but I just love it whenever I come back here. I had come close to winning a lot of times so I hope the experience will help me in getting my first ADT win tomorrow,” Pannakorn added.
Local hero Lin, a six-time winner on the premier Asian Tour, took advantage of all the par-fives to stay within touching distance of Pannakorn at the Taifong Open. Out of the four par-fives, he birdied the first three and eagled the last after chipping in from the rough about six yards away.
“I kept the ball in play. The wind’s a little unpredictable. I had to control the ball off the tee with a lower trajectory to keep the ball on the fairways although my distances could be shorter. It will be the same plan for me tomorrow,” said Lin, who enjoyed a tied-third finish last year.
“Hitting good tee shots will be the key to winning the tournament tomorrow. I had four chip-ins so far this week. My short game’s been pretty good. I will play my best tomorrow and hopefully recapture the trophy back on home soil,” said the 42-year-old Lin.
Phanuvich rode on his impeccable putting to move into contention in what was his debut appearance at the Taifong Open, which is celebrating its fourth edition as the richest event on the ADT this week.
“I played solid. I putted really well. Putting was the key for me today as I wasn’t able to putt as well in the first two rounds,” said Phanuvich, who needed only 24 putts, including a huge 30-footer for birdie on the last.
“I have to calm myself down a lot for tomorrow. It’s my first time playing in the final group! I will try my best,” added the 22-year-old Phanuvich.
The winner of the Taifong Open will take home a winner’s prize purse of US$28,000 and receive six Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points while the top-six players and ties earn points on a sliding scale.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
Leading third round scores:
206 - Pannakorn UTHAIPAS (THA) 72 67 67
208 - Phanuvich ONCHU (THA) 72 69 67, LIN Wen-tang (TWN) 69 72 67, HSU Hao-sheng (TWN) 72 68 68, Blake SNYDER (USA) 68 71 69
209 - Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA) 72 69 68, Steve LEWTON (ENG) 72 68 69, Sorachut HANSAPIBAN (THA) 68 69 72, Sattaya SUPUPRAMAI (THA) 69 67 73
210 - Marcus BOTH (AUS) 69 69 72
211 - Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 72 67 72
212 - LU Chien-soon (TWN) 70 73 69, Nicolas PAEZ (USA) 71 72 69, Nattawat SUVAJANAKORN (THA) 71 70 71
213 - YEH Yu-chen (TWN) 72 71 70, George GANDRANATA (INA) 72 69 72
About Asian Development Tour
The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking point.