Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng fired a majestic six under par 66 to open up a commanding five shot lead over compatriot Thongchai Jaidee and Australia’s Matthew Stieger after the third round of the inaugural Chiangmai Golf Classic presented by PTT.
The 47 year old, who led by two overnight, went out with a flawless 31 at the Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai before shooting three more birdies against two bogeys to put some daylight between him and the chasing pack on 18 under par.
Jaidee, a three-time Asian Tour Number One, battled to a 69 for a share of second place but conceded he needed a miracle to topple the runaway leader for a win which he needs to break into the Official World Golf Ranking’s top 50 and earn a place at the Masters Tournament in two weeks’ time.
Four-time Major Champion Ernie Els of South Africa fired his lowest round of the season with a 66 to move up to tied 15th place, eight shots behind the leader.
In-form Marksaeng, who has won three times at home this year including his national Open a fortnight ago, is chasing his seventh Asian Tour title but his first in nearly six years. A chip-in eagle on seven proved to be the highlight of his day as he held on to the lead for the third straight day.
“I have a five shot lead now and I will play steadily and not be aggressive. I think the pressure is on those chasing me. They need to have a good front nine or else they won’t be able to catch up with me,” he said.
Jaidee sank five birdies against two bogeys to keep alive his slim hopes of lifting a 14th Asian Tour victory.
“I think the problem was my putting and reading the lines,” he said.
“I hit a lot of good shots but the greens are killing (me). They are tough to read. Prayad played so well. He dropped a couple of shots but he came back. He likes the course and he’s in form. He’s got a good chance. I’ll try my best but I’ll need luck tomorrow.”