An irrepressible Charl Schwartzel of South Africa pulled five shots clear of the pack after a four under par 68 in the third round of the Thailand Golf Championship.
Schwartzel, searching for his first title in 20 months after winning the 2011 Masters Tournament, dropped his first bogey of the week at Amata Spring Country Club but a fantastic eagle and three other birdies saw him increase his overnight advantage.
Sweden’s Daniel Chopra overcame a double bogey as he battled to a 69 to trail a distant second, while local hope Thitiphun Chuayprakong scrambled to a 71 for third place, six back.
Two closing birdies in front of large galleries pushed Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia into fourth position following a 68 but he faces an uphill task being eight shots back of the runaway leader.
The 28 year old Schwartzel, who opened his campaign with successive 65s and leads on 18 under par, is poised to improve on last year’s runner-up finish to Lee Westwood but he is not prepared to pop the champagne yet.
“It’s a game of patience and I just have to go out there to play. If it’s my time, it’s my time,” said Schwartzel.
“Today felt good. The majority of it was solid. I hit a few bad ones but it was because I was sweating so much. I gave myself a lot of chances especially coming in.”