Chonburi: Anirban Lahiri's effort to cap a wonderful year with a good finish stayed on course as he was tied seventh along with some classy company at the Thailand Golf Championships here on Saturday.
The 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, meanwhile, refused to take his foot off the pedal as he held a massive five-shot lead over second placed Indo-Swede Daniel Chopra (69). He stayed in his zone to add a four-under 68 to his pair of 65s, to get to 18-under 198. His first and only bogey came in the third round.
Chopra at 13-under for three rounds, and Thitiphun Chuayprakong of Thailand (71) at 12-under exchanged places from overnight with the former moving to second. Chopra, who has lost his card this year on the PGA Tour, will be looking to happy memories of 2001 when he won in Taiwan on the Asian Tour while struggling for form elsewhere.
The highly popular Spaniard Sergio Garcia (68) at 10-under, Australian Scott Hend (69) at nine-under and Japan's Masanori Kobayishi (73) at eight-under occupied the fourth to sixth places.
Lahiri, at seven-under 209, moved from overnight ninth to seventh and was delighted to be tied alongside the reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson (71), Ryder Cup stars Nicolas Colsaerts (70), former World No. 1 Lee Westwood (70), the Japanese 'wunderkind' Ryo Ishikawa (73) and Asia No. 1 Thaworn Wiratchant (70) of Thailand.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (69) played a bogey-free round to make a smart move up from tied 50th to tied 27th at three-under, while Ajeetesh Sandhu (72) dropped marginally from tied 35th to 40th at one-under 215 for 54 holes. Shiv Kapur (72) stayed almost where he began with his level par round. He was tied 47th as against 50th overnight.
Earlier in the morning with 25 players returning to complete their second round, the cut fell at one-over and Jyoti Randhawa and Chiragh Kumar were among those missing it by one shot. Himmat Rai, Shankar Das, Digvijay Singh and SSP Chowrasia were the others to miss out. Gaurav Ghei, 10-over with eight to play, retired.
Lahiri, who goes out in the final round with Westwood and Asian No. 1 Thaworn Wiratchant, said, "Anytime you get to play alongside such stars it is a wonderful experience. I have had that chance at some of the other events and this is going to be one more such chance. There's a lot of top guys and the event has a lot of world ranking points. So, I just want to stay focused and get a good finish."
Schwartzel has been around a lot this past few months. At the start of the week he confessed he was tired. And today he said, "I have played 16 tournaments in last 20 weeks and they have been around the world. I will be lying if I said I am not feeling tired."
Chopra, whose last win was on the Nationwide in 2011, is looking forward to turning his fortunes around.
"It is going to be interesting. I'm five behind. Obviously my goal is to go out there and try to make it uncomfortable for Charl. Nobody wants to see him run away with it. I want to do my absolute best to make it close down the stretch," he said.
Lahiri was candid as he said, "I like the layout here. It is suited to the way I play. We must try and take advantage of the par-fives. If you find the fairways you can make fours and three or it could be difficult to even make five."
On the conditions here he felt, "The wind was the toughest today. The three holes from seventh to ninth were playing tough. I dropped a shot on ninth after I hit a bad tee shot. It is a difficult hole for the way I shape it. I have to play well and the holes ninth, eighth and 14th."
Bhullar, who had the best round among Indians in the third round, said, "I came back with a 69 but it was the kind of a round that should have been a 67. But I must add I also saved three good pars from seventh to ninth, his last three holes. I had a lot of edge burners on the green, but by and large I played well. I missed a few but I made a few good saves, too.
"I hit the ball well and I missed only two fairways. But I havent scored on the par-fives, so that is something I can look into," he added.