Photo - Asian Tour
PAGUNSAN POWERS INTO JOINT LEAD WITH PRAYAD AT QUEEN’S CUP
Samui, Thailand: Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines earned a chance of gaining revenge over Thai stalwart Prayad Marksaeng after a roller-coaster third round at the Queen’s Cup on Saturday.
Pagunsan birdied three of his last four holes at the Santiburi Samui Country Club for a two-under-par 69 to end the day tied atop the leaderboard with joint overnight leader Prayad, who stumbled with a costly triple bogey seven en route to a 71.
The final round of the US$300,000 Asian Tour event, sponsored by the Sports Authority of Thailand and Bangkok Airways, promises to be a thriller as five players – Chinese Taipei’s Lien Lu-sen, Japanese duo Tetsuji Hiratsuka and Kenichi Kuboya and home heroes Thaworn Wiratchant and Chapchai Nirat – are a shot back of the leaders.
In-form Pagunsan, who lost the Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok to Prayad three years ago with a bogey on the last hole, turned on the style late in his round, converting putts of seven feet at 15, five feet on 16 and two putting for eagle at the closing hole. The duo lead the Queen’s Cup on eight-under-par 205.
“I was struggling on the first nine, it was a good comeback. It was amazing to finish with three birdies in the last four holes. I hit only three greens on the front nine and a birdie on 11 got me going,” said Pagunsan, whose has a lone victory on the Asian Tour.
“It’s anybody’s ball game tomorrow. If I need to be aggressive, I’ll go for it. It’s another chance for me to win my second Asian Tour title. It seems to be always in Thailand that I have come close. I have now played five years on the Asian Tour and I am more mature now. I have more experience.”
Prayad, who has six Asian Tour victories under his belt, was cruising at 10-under for the tournament before disaster struck. On the 16th tee, he uncharacteristically hooked two drives into out of bounds and staggered off with a painful seven. The stocky Thai had a chance to eagle the 18th to make amends and regain sole lead but missed from 15 feet.
“I can’t remember when I did that last!,” said Prayad, referring to his costly errors.
“I’m wearing new golf shoes this week and the teeing ground on 16 was a bit sandy and I lost my footing in one of the drives. It was good that I managed to birdie the third ball (for the triple bogey). On 18, I failed to put in a good stroke.”
Victory on Sunday will be satisfying for Prayad as the Queen’s Cup is revered by the local players but he knows Pagunsan and the chasing pack will be ready to pounce. “It’s a bunched leaderboard. I’ll need to be cautious and hopefully I can start strongly on the front nine. Juvic is a good driver of the ball and a solid putter. He’s an aggressive player,” said the 44-year-old.
The unheralded Lien will have a chance to erase the bitter memories of throwing away a three-shot third round lead at Santiburi Samui two years ago. He battled hard to a 70 to lie one back. “A few players are in with a chance and I’ll try hard. It wasn’t easy today with the winds today,” said the man from Taipei.
The round of the day belonged to Hiratsuka, already a winner this season when he won the Air Bagan Myanmar Open. He fired a blistering 65, thanks to four birdies and a closing eagle from 12 feet which he termed as “lucky.”
“I played good, no bogey on the card. I did miss a few putts out there. On 18, I got lucky. My drive hit the cart path and the ball ended 170 yards only to the flag. This year, I’ve been very consistent with my driving as I’ve got a new driver in the bag. I feel comfortable on the tee. I’ve enjoyed some good results and I’m enjoying competing on the Asian Tour,” said 38-year-old, who is a five-time winner in Japan.
Countryman Kuboya also eagled the 18th for a 68 to give himself a shot of winning for the first time on the Asian Tour. “It was nice to finish strongly with two birdies (15 and 16) and an eagle on 18. I didn’t start well but had a really strong finish,” he said.
Leading third round scores
205 - Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 65-69-71, Juvic Pagunsan (PHI) 69-67-69
206 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-63-72, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 68-68-70, Lien Lu-sen (TPE) 69-67-70, Kenichi Kuboya (JPN) 70-68-68, Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 72-69-65
207 - Wisut Artjanawat (THA) 71-69-67
208 - Siddikur (BAN) 67-68-73, Iain Steel (MAS) 72-69-67
209 - Andrew Dodt (AUS) 74-65-70, Kodai Ichihara (JPN) 72-70-67
210 - Hsu Mong-nan (TPE) 68-69-73, Thitiphan Chuayprakong (THA) 69-70-71, Thanyakorn Khrongpha (THA) 70-71-69
211 - Pariya Junhasavasdikul (THA) 69-70-72, Udorn Duangdecha (THA) 71-69-71