Thailand’s Boonchu Ruangkit strengthened his stranglehold on the European Senior Tour Order of Merit with a scintillating six under par 65 to take a one shot lead into the final round of the Benahavis Senior Masters.
The former Thai kick-boxer showed a killer instinct on the greens at La Quinta Golf and Country Club, in Spain, following some help from some illustrious colleagues to iron out a flaw in his putting stroke.
Tips from Carl Mason, a three-time Senior Tour Order of Merit winner, and Ryder Cup legend Costantino Rocca after Friday’s first round contributed to a much improved display from the 54 year old, who is bidding for his fourth win of the 2010 season.
Despite struggling with a neck injury, Ruangkit surged through the field courtesy of six bogeys as he moved to nine under par 133 for the tournament, with joint overnight leader Jerry Bruner dropping a shot on the last hole for a round of 69 to lie one stroke back.
“I played very straight today which is important on this course with its narrow fairways and small greens but I also putted very well,” said Ruangkit.
“My putting was much better than yesterday. I learned from Carl and Costantino, who gave me a lesson and told me not to move my head. They just reminded me to keep my head still and that worked.”
Ruangkit is currently €24,199 ahead of South African Chris Williams in the Order of Merit and with a first prize of €27,000 on offer in Spain, victory would, in all likelihood, all but seal the John Jacobs Trophy with just two events remaining.
However, the typically understated Ruangkit insisted he was just focused on trying to capture another title to sit alongside his three consecutive victories earlier in the season in Brunei, his native Thailand and South Africa.
“Anyone can come up tomorrow and do the same as I did today so I can’t think too far ahead,” he said. “But if I play like I did today I will have a good chance to win again.
“I would be so proud of myself if I could get a fourth win. The weather here has been great and I play better when it’s like this.”
In contrast to Ruangkit’s round, Bruner found that his touch on the greens deserted him as he missed several golden opportunities to pull clear of the field following his opening round 65.
“The score really didn’t reflect the way I played and hit the ball today,” he said. “I had opportunities on the 12th, 13th and 14th when I hit it inside ten feet but didn’t even touch the hole so there goes your round right there.
“I birdied seven, eight and nine for my only birdies of the day and if I’d made one or two of those putts on the way in I’d still be ahead. I just read them wrong, so I can’t complain.
“If I can make some putts tomorrow I’ll be in the hunt. I played with Boonchu in Bangkok when he won so it would be nice to reverse it this time!”
Paraguay’s Angel Franco and Englishman John Gould are a further shot back on seven under par following rounds of 69 and 67 respectively.
Defending champion Carl Mason also remains in the hunt for a record breaking 24th Senior Tour title following a 68 for a share of fifth place on six under par, alongside Spaniard Juan Quiros (66) and Scottish pair Ross Drummond (69) and Martin Gray (68).
Their compatriot, Andrew Oldcorn, the overnight co-leader with Bruner, doubled bogeyed the fifth hole en route to 73 and a share of 12th place on four under par, five shots off the pace.