Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, December 23: Namchok Tantipokhakul of Thailand overcame a shaky start to sign for a two-under-par 69, stretching his overnight three-shot lead to five at the season-ending Boonchu Ruangkit Championship on Saturday.
The 30-year-old Namchok, who held the lead since the opening round, started with a birdie on first but gave it away after stumbling with a double-bogey on third and a bogey on sixth. The burly Thai, however, steadied his ship by picking up four birdies on his way home.
Namchok rolled in an eight-footer birdie putt on the last to stay atop the leaderboard with a three-day total of 14-under-par 199 and put himself in prime position for a second Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory at the Rancho Charnvee Resorts and Country Club.
Young Thai Jazz Janewattananond soared with back-to-back eagles in his closing five holes for a solid round of 66 to share second place with countrymen Poom Saksansin (67), Chanachok Dejpiratanamongkol (71) and Janne Kaske (68) of Finland.
Singapore’s Koh Deng Shan returned with the day’s best score of a 63 to grab a share of sixth place on 205 alongside six other players, including South African Mathiam Keyser (69), who needs at least a fourth-place finish to secure his Asian Tour card for 2018.
“I got unlucky on the third hole. My ball hit the tree and went out of bounds. I went on to three-putt the sixth hole but I told myself to stay calm and relaxed and I recovered with a good birdie on the ninth hole,” said Namchok, who last won on the ADT in 2015.
“That gave me a lot of confidence. I went on to birdie the 10th and 12th hole. I am happy to put myself in a good position. I am just going to stick to my game and not think too much. I am happy with how I played so far so hopefully I can continue the good form,” he added.
Jazz, who started the round with an eight-shot deficit, made his move by firing back-to-back birdies and two straight eagles against a bogey at the tournament, which saw him lost to countryman Danthai Boonma on the fourth play-off hole last year.
“I made two birdies in my opening four holes but wasn’t able to ride on that momentum as I reeled in eight pars and made one bogey after that. But I recovered brilliantly with two straights eagles on 14 and 15. I got really lucky there.
“It was an easy par-five on 14. Before going to that hole, I had hit the greens in two in the earlier par-fives on fifth and 12th but I three-putted. On the 14, it wasn’t a long eagle putt but it was on the slope. I didn’t think I would make that but the ball went in,” said the 22-year-old Jazz.
“I hit it to the middle of the fairway again on 15 and holed out with a 54-degree from over 100 yards! I didn’t see the ball go in as well but my flight mates saw. I came really close last year so I hope to do it again and redeem myself with a win tomorrow.
“This is almost the last tournament for me this year. It has been a great season for me so far. I have nothing to lose. I just want to try and have fun out there,” added Jazz, who claimed his breakthrough win on the Asian Tour in Bangladesh earlier in February.
Poom took advantage of his pinpoint approach shots for a solid round highlighted by five birdies against a bogey. His round of a 67 would have been perfect if his four-footer par putt on the last had not lipped out.
“I hit my irons really good today but my putting wasn’t consistent. I hit it close and gave myself a lot of chances for birdies. I left a few putts out there but overall it was a good round. I sank a long par putt from 21 feet on the seventh hole which gave me a lot of confidence.
“I am hitting my driver and irons a lot better today compared to the last two days. I hope to continue that in the final round,” said the 24-year-old Poom, who has won twice on the Asian Tour and once on the ADT.
Oskar Arvidsson of Sweden sank the first hole-in-one at the 2017 Boonchu Ruangkit Championship after hitting a seven-iron from 173 yards on the par-three 17th hole. He will take home an additional prize money of ฿100,000 thanks to his ace.
ADT Order of Merit leader Pannakorn Uthaipas of Thailand battled to a 70 to tie in 43rd place while compatriot and defending champion Danthai Boonma was forced to withdrew from the ฿4 million (approximately US$120,000) event due to food poisoning before his third round.
The leading five players on the final ADT Order of Merit at the end of the week will earn playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2018.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
Leading third round scores:
199 - Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 63 67 69
204 - Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 68 70 66, Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) 67 70 67, Janne KASKE (FIN) 69 67 68, Chanachok DEJPIRATANAMONGKOL (THA) 66 67 71
205 - KOH Deng Shan (SGP) 69 73 63, Tanapat PICHAIKOOLL (A) (THA) 70 69 66, Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 72 66 67, Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 73 65 67, Peradol PANYATHANASEDH (THA) 69 69 67, Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 69 68 68, Mathiam KEYSER (RSA) 69 67 69
206 - Sorachut HANSAPIBAN (THA) 71 68 67, Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA) 70 69 67, Blake SNYDER (USA) 70 67 69, Jakraphan PREMSIRIGORN (THA) 70 66 70
207 - Wolmer MURILLO (VEN) 73 68 66, Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 68 71 68, Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA) 68 70 69
208 - Natipong SRITHONG (THA) 72 69 67, Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA) 71 68 69, Itthipat BURANATANYARAT (THA) 65 73 70, Chaiphat KOONMARK (THA) 70 67 71, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 71 66 71
209 - Tawit POLTHAI (THA) 76 66 67, Ronnachai JAMNONG (THA) 73 68 68, Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 71 70 68, Oscar ZETTERWALL (SWE) 70 70 69, Somkiat SRISA-NGA (THA) 70 70 69
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 points.