Shanghai: Evergreen Thongchai Jaidee is in pole position to claim his second European Tour victory of the season after a third-round 66 gave him a one-shot lead in the BMW Masters yesterday.
The ex-Thai army paratrooper, who turned 46 earlier this week, started with a birdie blitz at Lake Malaren and then held on to his lead at 15-under as several of the biggest names in the game charged up the leaderboard on a day of low scoring.
Thongchai was three behind the overnight leader Lucas Bjerregaard at the start of play in Shanghai but quickly wiped out the deficit with five birdies to go to the turn in 31.
Denmark’s Bjerregaard had a two-under 70 and lies tied second alongside Spain’s Sergio Garcia (67) and South Korea’s An Byeong-Hun (66) on 14 under par in the $7 million flagship event.
“I have pretty good confidence after winning in Germany (at the European Open in September),” said Thongchai, a late bloomer who did not turn professional until he was 30. “I’m going to play my own game and look forward to things tomorrow.”
Saturday is known as moving day as players try to score low and put themselves in position for an assault on the title in the final round today. A gaggle of big names did just that in the third round.
US Ryder Cup player Patrick Reed, who tied seventh in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan last week, shot an eight-under 64 to move to 12-under par, in a tie for sixth place just three back of Thongchai.
Also 12-under is Sweden’s world number seven Henrik Stenson, who shot a superb bogey-free 65, plus the English trio of Ian Poulter (68), Paul Casey (68) and Ross Fisher (67). Belgium’s Thomas Pieters was another to put himself in the mix with a stunning round of nine-under 63, the best of the week, to move to 11-under for the tournament.
Kristoffer Broberg nearly matched Pieters after an eagle three at the seventh ignited a sparkling run of 10 holes played in nine-under par.
But the Swede dropped his only shot at the short 17th after missing the green and he finished with 64 to lie fifth on 13 under for the tournament.
Meanwhile Rory McIlroy looks as if he could retain his lead at the top of the Race to Dubai heading into next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship. McIlroy chose not to play this week, leaving himself vulnerable to his nearest challengers.
But Danny Willett, who is second in the standings, had a round of 70 which left him in a tie for 27th place. That would leave the Englishman just 3,900 points short of being able to leapfrog the Northern Irish world number three.