Hua Hin, Thailand: Unheralded Piya Swangarunporn of Thailand birdied his closing two holes for a one-stroke lead at the US$600,000 Black Mountain Masters on Saturday but hot on his heels are proven winners Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
The 27-year-old Piya, chasing a maiden Asian Tour victory, battled to a four-under-par 68 in the third round at the Black Mountain Golf Club to head the stellar field on 14-under-par 202 while Hiratsuka enjoyed a career first with three eagles in a spectacular round of 67.
Thongchai carded a 68 to stay in the hunt in tied third place, three back, as he kept alive his hopes of winning for the second straight week. Overnight leader Lee Sung of Korea stumbled to a 75 to join Thongchai on 205 in the Asian Tour’s season finale.
Big-hitting Piya has won eight times on the domestic circuit but is excited to have a shot at winning his first Asian Tour title at Black Mountain.
“If I win, it will change my life. Everything will change. Since I turned pro (in 2002), I’ve been waiting for this chance,” said Piya.
Two top-10s this year on the Asian Tour showed the growing maturity in his game which relies heavily on his long driving ability. He has won a long driving contest in Thailand in 2006 with a massive 320 yard effort.
“This is the first time I’m leading. I need to keep playing the same game plan. It’s very exciting. I’m not going to think about the players behind me. If I’m not too nervous I will have a chance to win. I was a bit nervous today,” admitted Piya.
Hiratsuka, 39, is chasing a third victory of the year on the Asian Tour and soared high with three eagles in his round. He holed a monstrous 45 feet putt on the sixth, 15 feet on the 13th and drained a 12 footer at the last hole after a massive three wood approach shot from 256 yards out.
“It was a special day. I enjoy playing in Thailand (he won the Queen’s Cup in Samui in June) and I like it here as well. But I will have to watch out for Thongchai as he is the perfect golfer. We’ll have to keep an eye on him,” said Hiratsuka, who is a five-time winner in Japan.
Thongchai moved menacingly up the leaderboard with a five-birdie round but lamented missed opportunities on the greens once again. “I played solid but took 32 putts. It was a very good and steady round. You never know who will win but I’ve got a big chance,” said Thongchai, who holds a record three Order of Merit titles and 13 victories.
“Piya is a good golfer but sometimes you need a game plan. He hits it very long but you must have the experience to control the game. This week is very important as this is the Masters. If I win, it’ll be good for my record.”
Lee, who underwent an operation to place an implant to help him hear three weeks ago, struggled on the greens. “My putting was bad. I couldn’t putt and struggled after a bogey on the first hole,” said the Korean, who only managed one birdie.
Australia’s Marcus Both, who moved up to fifth place with a 69, has finished fifth and sixth in his last two tournaments but knows he requires a special round to pounce on his third Asian Tour title.
“I controlled the ball well considering it was windy and I only missed one green. I hit a lot of nice putts which lipped out a few times but that’s a good thing as a few would have to drop in eventually,” said Both.
Leading third round scores
202 - Piya Swangarunporn (THA) 69-65-68
203 - Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 65-71-67
205 - Lee Sung (KOR) 66-64-75, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 68-69-68
207 - Marcus Both (AUS) 70-68-69
208 - Simon Griffiths (ENG) 66-71-71, Udorn Duangdecha (THA) 67-72-69, Zaw Moe (MYN) 69-72-67
209 - Namchoak Tantipokakul (THA) 68-64-77, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 69-66-74, Daisuke Maruyama (JPN) 65-71-73, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 66-72-71, Mardan Mamat (SIN) 70-68-71, Anthony Kang (USA) 66-73-70, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 67-72-70, Mo Joong-kyung (KOR) 69-70-70
210 - Matthew Rosenfeld (USA) 67-69-74, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 70-66-74, Scott Hend (AUS) 70-68-72, Chinnarat Phadungsil (THA) 68-73-69
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com