Tsukada leads with closing eagle
Japan’s Yoshinobu Tsukada drained a 15-foot eagle putt on the last hole to snatch a one-shot lead from Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil in the third round of the US$300,000 Queen’s Cup on Saturday.
The 39-year-old journeyman from Chiba overcame a three-shot deficit at the start of the day with a solid five-under-par 66 to give himself a chance of a first Asian Tour title at the Santiburi Samui Country Club.
Chinnarat, 20, struggled with a wayward driver and needed a 10-foot birdie conversion on the 18th hole for a 70 to stay on the leader’s heals. A 67 saw Filipino Mars Pucay surge into contention as he moved into tied third place with Korea’s Kim Dae-hyun (68), three back.
Last week’s winner Rick Kulacz of Australia was a further stroke adrift after a 69 alongside South African Keith Horne, who fired the day’s best of 64 and Thailand’s Udorn Duangdecha, who carded a 67.
“I’ve never won a tournament before, my best was a second place finish and I don’t know how to win a tournament. I’m feeling relaxed but tomorrow morning, I don’t know, maybe I’ll be nervous,” said Tsukada, who holds a three-day score of 13-under-par 200.
Playing on a sponsor’s invitation this week as he does not have a full Asian Tour card, the Japanese veteran caught up with Chinnarat with four birdies through 11 holes before his lone bogey on 16. But he aptly made up with an eagle on the 18th for the second straight day, firing a six iron to 15 feet.
“I kept playing as well as the last two days. It was nothing special. Chinnarat struggled with his tee shots but he’s a good player. Tomorrow, he could be much better than me. I don’t know, I’ll just try my best,” said Tsukada.
Chinnarat’s chase for a third Asian Tour victory faltered with some errant drives, made the more difficult with swirling winds. But the local star ensured he stayed firmly in the title chase with a crucial birdie at the last hole.
“After I saw Tsukada make his eagle putt, I said I needed to make my birdie. It’ll make tomorrow a bit easier. I thought I had hit a very good shot (into 18) and that it would end up five feet of the flag. But it was a wrong yardage and it kicked into the bunker. If I can shoot three or four birdies tomorrow and keep making pars, it could be enough,” said Chinnarat.
The experienced Pucay gave himself a chance of a maiden Asian Tour win with an inward 32 and will enter the last round three behind the new leader.
“This gives me a good chance. I hit it really well, with the exception of the sixth hole. But tee to green, it was really nice. My front half of the year was not that good and I worked really hard during the summer break. A win will be nice. I’ll have to attack the flag tomorrow to have a chance of winning this event,” said the 39-year-old Filipino.
Kim, playing in his rookie season, stayed in the hunt with five birdies against three bogeys but played down his chances. “I managed to get some iron shots close and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. A top-five finish will make me happy but I will try to win. I’m feeling calm,” he said.
Malaysia’s Danny Chia and M. Sasidaran, South Africa’s Jbe Kruger, Thammanoon Srirot and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand and India’s Anirban Lahiri are lying on 206, six shots back but with the knowledge that the last two winners on Tour had won from six behind going into the last round.
The Queen’s Cup, making its debut on the Asian Tour, is sponsored by the Sport Authority of Thailand and Bangkok Airways.
Leading third round scores (click here for full leaderboard):
200 - Yoshinobu Tsukada (JPN) 68-66-66
201 - Chinnarat Phadungsil (THA) 66-65-70
203 - Kim Dae-Hyun (KOR) 68-67-68, Mars Pucay (PHI) 68-68-67
204 - Keith Horne (RSA) 74-66-64, Udorn Duangdecha (THA) 70-67-67, Rick Kulacz (AUS) 68-67-69
205 - Anirban Lahiri (IND) 71-68-66
206 - M. Sasidaran (MAS) 72-67-67, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 66-70-70, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 65-71-70, Thammanoon Srirot (THA) 69-67-70, Danny Chia (MAS) 71-63-72
207 - Kao Bo-song (TPE) 76-65-66
208 - Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 72-68-68, Sung Mao-chang (TPE) 66-69-73
August 15, 2009