Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai took a dramatic lead in the third round of the inaugural International Series Thailand on Saturday, pulling ahead of tight competition with a nine-under-par 63.
Snapping at his heels were compatriots Poosit Supupramai (62) and Itthipat Buranayarat (65) at the Black Mountain course at the seaside resort of Hua Hin.
Phachara made nine birdies to lead on a 20 under three-day total of 196 in the first event in the controversial Saudi-backed International Series on the Asian Tour, which carries a weighty $1.5 million purse.
The 22-year-old player has shown excellent form — dropping only one shot in the previous days, and also carding a 63 on the first round of the event — and on Saturday hammered home his advantage with three birdies in a row from the 16th.
“I have been playing well for a while, so I felt like a good round was coming,” Phachara said.
“The course is possible to shoot low score, but you still have to play well.”
Hua Hin is particularly poignant for the rising star: aged just 14 he took home the 2013 Singha Hua Hin Open cup as an amateur.
“Hua Hin has special meaning for me, as I turned professional after winning in 2013,” he said.
An earlier course record of 62 set by Sihwan Kim on the first day was matched by Thailand’s Poosit, who managed an eagle, nine birdies and only a single bogey.
The 28-year-old seemed delighted with his performance, stating: “I got some luck, everything was perfect.”
And finally Thailand’s 15-year-old Ratchanon ‘TK’ Chantananuwat stayed in the running, carding a 63 to finish on 15 under.