South Korea’s Bi-o Kim held off a Thai charge to retain the clubhouse lead on Saturday for a third day in a row at the Laguna Phuket Championship.
The 31-year-old carded a one-over-par 71 and leads by a stroke over Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat, who scored 68, and fellow home turf hopeful Phachara Khongwatmai on 69.
“It was a tough day. I was a little out of sync, I’m not sure why,” Kim said. “I was certainly mentally tired. I am pleased the round is over and I can reset for tomorrow.”
The first nine holes were smooth but Kim hit a snag with bogeys on the 10th and 15th.
He is looking for his first title on the Asian Tour and is in top shape with a joint-fourth result in last week’s Blue Canyon Phuket Championship.
Kim narrowly held the lead for most of Saturday until Panuphol drew level when he downed a 15-foot birdie putt on 17.
But the Thai golfer dropped a shot on the par-four 18th after hitting his approach short, chipping to three feet and missing the putt.
“I am still struggling with a shoulder injury, but I am playing well, enjoying the course and it’s great to be in contention,” said Panuphol, who goes by the nickname Coconut.
He last won on the Asian Tour at the 2018 Thailand Open, a year after winning the Indonesian Open.
Phachara (22) is also looking for his first Asian Tour victory after a plethora of top finishes.
“We had a battle on the back nine and I am sure it will be the same tomorrow,” Phachara said.
This week’s $1-million tournament on the popular Thai holiday island marks the second Asian Tour tee-off since the Malaysian Open in March 2020.
The field was cut to 75 from 144 on Saturday.
Last week Taiwan’s Chan Shih-chang sealed a gripping last-hole victory in the Blue Canyon Phuket event.
© Agence France-Presse