Kulim [KEDAH]: Ben Leong drained back-to-back birdies at the end to put the finishing touches on a flawless six-under 66 in the third round of the Jimei Korea Kulim Championship on Friday.
A fine all-round display saw Leong total 14-under-par 202 to take a slim one-shot lead over Thailand’s Poom Saksansin, who returned with a bogey-less 68 at the Kulim Golf & Country Resort.
Four-time ASEAN PGA Tour winner Gunn Charoenkul lurks a further two shot back in sole third after a battling two-under 70.
With his putter on fire, Korean Deaeok Jeong threatened the overnight leaders on the back of nine birdies but a triple bogey on the 13th and two further dropped shots saw him finish at 68. He sits in joint fourth alongside Thailand’s Nattapong Putta on 10-under-par 206.
A bunch of six players including 2013 Order of Merit champion Kwanchai Tannin (69) and Malaysia’s Iylia Jamil (68) remain within five strokes off the lead in the US$150,000 ASEAN PGA tournament
Having secured a joint third finish in a domestic event last week, Leong was relishing to go one better and claim his first win of the season.
“It’s always good to start with a birdie and it just took off from there. I felt pretty comfortable and in control. Made some long putts but missed some makeable ones as well but I’m not complaining, that’s a good round to post,” said the 30-year-old.
With two PGM Tour titles in recent years, Leong’s performance this week marked another positive step in his bid to rebuild his career after a long spell on the sidelines due to a debilitating back injury.
The Sabahan claimed his first professional victory in 2008 on the ASEAN PGA Tour when he triumphed at the Mercedes-Benz Masters Malaysia and is looking forward to repeating the feat.
“Since my comeback, I’ve tried to win on the regional stage and I believe it’s within myself to do it here. I’m always telling myself to stay in the present and go through the process – every day, every hole, every shot; you just take it as it comes and hopefully, I’ll do enough tomorrow,” he noted.
Saksansin hopes that his putting touch will not desert him as he eyes a first win on the ASEAN PGA Tour.
“I left some birdies out there today and hopefully, I can recoup them in the final round. I hit the ball consistently but missed some good opportunities. I haven’t won this year yet, so it will timely,” noted the 2013 SEA Games double gold medalist.
Leading third round scores (Par-72)
202 – Ben Leong (MAS) 69-67-66
203 – Poom Saksansin (THA) 70-65-68
205 – Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 66-69-70
206 – Nattapong Putta (THA) 67-72-67, Deaeok Jeong (KOR) 69-69-68
207 – Rufino Bayron (PHI) 70-71-66, Jhonnel Ababa (PHI) 71-68-68, Iylia Jamil 70-69-68, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 75-64-68, Jay Bayron (PHI) 73-65-69, Kwanchai Tannin (THA) 70-68-69
208 – Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 71-69-68, Raththee Sirithanakunsuk (THA) 66-73-69, Pijit Petchkasem (THA) 69-70-69, Pasavee Lertvilai (THA) 69-68-71