Hua Hin, Thailand: Bangladeshi Shakhawat’s dream of earning an Asian Tour card hangs by a thread after the third round of the Qualifying School Final Stage on Friday.
Shakhawat shot a one-under-par 71 for a three-day total of two-under-par 214 to lie in 59th place, outside the safety zone where the top-40 and ties will earn playing opportunities for the new 2011 Asian Tour season.
Lucas Lee of Brazil tightened his grip on the lead following a 70 for a three-day total of 197 at the Springfield Royal Country Club.
Ross Bain of Scotland, who returned with a solid 65, was five strokes back in second place while Australian Tim Stewart and Pierre-Henri Soero, who hails from New Caledonia, an overseas French colony shared third place on a 204 total at the Final Stage presented by Sports Authority of Thailand.
Himmat Rai of India suffered a minor setback with a nervy 73 to lie in 31st place while David Johnson of the United States, who was in fourth place going into the third round, slipped back to tied 42nd after posting a 77 for a 212 total.
Amateur golfer Miguel Tabuena, 16, of the Philippines charged up the leader board after firing a superb 65 for a 211 total to put himself in a strong position of finishing in the top-40.
Shakhawat, 26, who finished tied first at the Asian Tour Qualifying School First Stage, turned in 33 before dropping shots on holes 13 and 18, where his second shot found water.
“That was my worst shot for the whole day (on the 18th hole) I played quite good but suffered a couple of bad shots. My second shot went into the water on the last hole or I would have had a better score and be closer to the top-40,” said Shakhawat, who turned professional last month.
He will be on attack mode in the final round as he aims to be the second Bangladeshi, after 2010 Brunei Open champion Siddikur to earn a Tour card.
“It will mean a lot to me to earn my Asian Tour. It will be like a dream come true and it will change my life tremendously. It is about time I do something for my country,” added Shakhawat who worked as a caddie before becoming the captain of the Bangladesh national team for the last two years.
Overnight leader Lee held on to his lead despite finding water on the 13th hole from the tee but with his Asian Tour card within his grasp, he is now aiming for glory.
“I’m going to try and win but this is a tournament and getting first place any time is good. I struggled a bit with the wind so I’m going to try and stay more focussed tomorrow and it should be good,” said the 24-year-old.
On the other side of the spectrum, Johnson rued a bad day in the office where he closed with two birdies against five bogeys and one double bogey. However, he still remains upbeat of turning his fortunes around and breaking into the top-40.
“I slipped back big time. It was an unfortunate day with a lot of bad breaks which all came at once. I had balls plugged in the bunker (five and eight) and had a great drive land right in the middle of a divot. I’m so upset I can’t even talk about it but I’m not really too worried about it and I’m confident of bouncing back,” said Johnson, who had two nine place finishes last season before finishing in 90th place on the Order of Merit.
Meanwhile, India’s Rai, known for pushing Asian Tour honorary member K.J. Choi, to the brink of the 2009 Iskandar Johor Open title, wobbled on the front nine where he turned in 38 before recovering with two birdies in the last three holes.
“I had a couple of missed opportunities early in my round but luckily I had a good finish. I should be okay if I can stick to the basics. I need to treat it like any other day. I did the best I could today with the skill I had and I gave it my all and a 73 was all I could do,” said Rai, who lost his Asian Tour card last season after finishing in tied 76th on the Order of Merit.
Tabuena, who had decorated Canadian professional Rick Gibson on his bag, overcame his jitters to bounce back with a sparkling round highlighted by six birdies and one eagle against one bogey. He finished fourth at the Philippines Open last month and believes the experience of playing in the Qualifying School will help boost his career in the future.
“I wanted to see how I fared against the other players and see how I can improve my game. I just need to keep doing what I have been doing. It would be great if I could shoot another seven-under tomorrow,” said Tabuena, a silver medallist at the Asian Games.
Leading third round scores
197 - Lucas LEE (BRA) 62-65-70
202 - Ross BAIN (SCO) 68-69-65
204 - Tim STEWART (AUS) 70-67-67, Pierre-Henri SOERO (FRA) 68-65-71
205 - Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 65-72-68, Hirohito KOIZUMI (JPN) 65-68-72
206 - Andrew RAITT (ENG) 71-68-67, Do KIM (AUS) 71-66-69
207 - CHOI Jae-Ho (KOR) 70-70-67, Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 69-68-70, Dion SIRIANNI (CAN) 69-67-71, Adam GROOM (AUS) 67-68-72
208 - KANG Kyung-Nam (KOR) 69-71-68, Joonas GRANBERG (FIN) 71-69-68, Jonathan MOORE (USA) 66-72-70, PARK Jin-Woo (KOR) 71-67-70
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com