Thongchai regains lead in Myanmar Open
BY iseekgolf.com | Asian Tour | 2005 Myanmar Open | Round Three | 26 Feb 2005
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee put himself in prime position for another successful title defence when he opened up a two-shot lead after the third round of the US$200,000 Myanmar Open today.
The Asian Tour number one birdied two of his closing three holes for a three-under-par 69 and a three-day total of 10-under-par 206 at Yangon Golf Club and heads India’s Ashok Kumar, who charged up the leaderboard with a fine 65.
Overnight leader Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand, struggling with a sore knee, stumbled to a 73 to fall three off the pace while Australian Scott Strange was a further shot back on 210 after a 69.
Thongchai, the defending champion, retained his Carlsberg Malaysian Open title last Sunday and is poised for another piece of silverware. But he needed a strong finish to pull clear of newcomer Kumar, converting putts of four feet and 12 feet on the 16th and 18th holes respectively.
“I played quite nicely again but didn’t make many putts. I didn’t take advantage of the par fives on the back nine and needed to save pars on 12 and 17 after errant drives. But I’m two shots clear and I feel confident of winning again,” said Thongchai, who was also the Myanmar Open champion in 2002.
American Andrew Pitts, joint fifth on 211 with Lu Wen-teh of Chinese Taipei, India’s Arjun Singh and Canadian Rick Gibson, will not be surprised if Thongchai pulls off a career eighth victory, which would make him the player with the most number of wins on the Asian Tour.
“He’s got more talent than anyone else right now,” said Pitts, who carded a 72 with 18 pars playing alongside Thongchai in the final group. “He’s 58th in the world and it tells you something. He does everything well and he’s driving it long and straight,” said Pitts, last year’s runner-up here.
The unheralded Kumar charged up the leaderboard with eight birdies against a lone bogey and missed matching the course record by one stroke. Wielding his putter like a magic wand, the Indian rolled in several long putts, including a 30 footer on eight, a 20 footer on 10 and a 15-foot conversion on 17.
“I putted nicely. I’m feeling good about my golf and I’m aiming for a win tomorrow. I’m not worried about anything, not even Thongchai. He’s Asia’s number one player but I have a chance to win,” said Kumar, who made his debut on the Asian Tour last season and recorded a sixth place finish in the Carlsberg Masters Vietnam.
The 21-year-old turned pro two years ago but has shown his growing promise, winning the Indian Tour Order of Merit in 2004 and 10 titles at home.
A former caddie who grew up at the Delhi Golf Club, Kumar was taken under the wings of Amit Luthra, winner of the Asian Games gold medal in 1982. “Amit is my godfather, he gave me golf clubs to get started and has help shape my career. I have only a country exemption on the Asian Tour this year and a win will give me full exemption. I’ve won at home and it’ll be nice for me to win abroad.”
A sore knee has not helped Boonchu’s cause as he slipped off the lead with three bogeys and two birdies.
“My knee is not feeling all that good,” said the 48-year-old reigning Thai Open champion. “I’ve got it strapped up by the Tour physio but I can’t really give it my normal effort, especially in the my drives. There is also slight pain when I walk but I’ll have to carry on and aim for a good finish. Thongchai looks to be in a good position.”
Min Naing was the best placed Myanmar player in tied 25th position on 217 after he fired a third round 73.
Source – Asian Tour