Plaphol in pole position for Samui crown

Samui, Thailand; June 18: Thailand’s Chawalit Plaphol put himself in prime position to end a five-year title drought after grabbing the third round lead at the Queen’s Cup on Saturday.

The 36-year-old Chawalit battled to a three-under-par 68 on another tough scoring day at the Santiburi Samui Country Club to lead by one stroke from countryman Somkiat Srisanga (69) and Daisuke Maruyama of Japan (71) in the US$300,000 Asian Tour event.

Australia’s Gavin Flint returned a 69 to lie two back while joint overnight leader Jbe Kruger of South Africa slipped three off the pace after a 73 alongside Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who shot a 70.

The smooth-swinging Chawalit, who leads on eight-under-par 205, is relishing the opportunity to savour victory again as his last title was the Bangkok Airways Open in 2006 at Santiburi Samui. He could also complete a unique double as he has won the King’s Cup here previously before it became an Asian Tour event.

“The weather conditions made it tough,” said Chawalit, who shot five birdies against two bogeys. “You have to plan well. I hit low shots and it was tough. You have to be careful especially on this course. And in this weather, anything can happen tomorrow.”

The lead changed hands several times during a topsy-turvy day caused by blustery winds and heavy rain which forced a suspension of play for 45 minutes in the afternoon. Chawalit, a two-time Asian Tour winner, reckons if he keeps driving well, he would be the last man standing.

“If I can continue to drive it well, I can win it. I know this course well, know the layout, know where to go and know the greens. It’s our home event and we want to win the tournament for the Queen and keep the trophy in Thailand,” said Chawalit.

After two dismal seasons, the 37-year-old Somkiat surged into contention for a first Asian Tour victory. His cause has been helped by the most unlikeliest of allies in countryman Prom Meeesawat’s wife, Supichaya, who is caddying for him this week.

Six birdies on the card, including one on 18 where he nearly chipped in for eagle, saw him end the day on Chawalit’s heels. “When I was coming over to Samui, I told Prom’s wife that my caddie was sick and couldn’t come to the tournament. So she volunteered to be my caddie which has been great,” said Somkiat.

“It’s her first time caddying and she keeps me relaxed. Sometimes she’s giving me the wrong clubs and doing some silly things but it’s been fun.”

Despite being 18 holes away from a first title in Asia, Somkiat is not putting pressure on himself to produce the goods.

“I am not expecting anything tomorrow. I’ll take whatever that comes my way,” he said.

Maruyama, fresh from a runner-up finish at the Japan Golf Tour Championship two weeks ago, battled to three birdies against as many bogeys. He is bracing for a tough fight on Sunday, saying Chawalit was too good a golfer to give up his lead.

“It was difficult. The weather disruption made concentration tough. But I’m looking forward to being in the final group. I tried to keep pars throughout the day as it was windy. You just have to keep control and try to pull the right irons. The second shots were difficult,” he said.

“I’ve played with Chawalit a few times in Japan previously. He’s got good technique and hits it long. He’s won in Japan as well.”

Like Somkiat, Flint is searching for a first victory on the Asian Tour. He gave himself a fighting chance with a solid round of three birdies against a lone dropped shot. “I played good. There were a few birdie chances coming in and it was nice to make one at the last hole,” he said.

The Aussie plans to stay patient despite trailing by two shots. “There’s no point chasing on this course. It’s too tricky especially with the way the wind is blowing. You’ve just got to wait and see what comes your way. My ball striking has been good. I’m feeling pretty good about it. It feels like I’m on the right track,” said Flint.

Leading third round scores
205 – Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 70-67-68
206 – Somkiat Srisanga (THA) 70-67-69, Daisuke Maruyama (JPN) 68-67-71
207 – Gavin Flint (AUS) 67-71-69
208 – Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 65-73-70, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 67-68-73
209 – Udorn Duangdecha (THA) 68-75-66, Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 73-69-67
210 – Mars Pucay (PHI) 70-73-67, Lin Wen-hong (TPE) 72-68-70, Peter Karmis (RSA) 70-70-70, Mo Joong-kyung (KOR) 70-69-71, Kalle Samooja (FIN) 67-70-73, Chinnarat Phandungsil (THA) 69-67-74
211 – Tetsuji Hiratsuka (JPN) 73-70-68, Anirban Lahiri (IND) 66-72-73, Siddikur (BAN) 69-68-74