Unheralded Piya Swangarunporn of Thailand birdied his closing two holes for a shock one-stroke lead at the Black Mountain Masters yesterday, but hot on his heels are proven winners Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan, who enjoyed a career first with three eagles in a spectacular round of 67, and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
The 27-year-old Piya, chasing a maiden Asian Tour victory, battled to a four-under 68 in the third round at the Black Mountain Golf Club to head the field on 14-under 202.
“If I win, it will change my life. Everything will change. Since I turned pro [in 2002], I’ve been waiting for this chance,” Piya said.
Two top 10 finishes this year on the Asian Tour showed the growing maturity in his game, which relies heavily on his long driving ability. He won a long driving contest in Thailand in 2006 with a massive 320-yard effort.
“This is the first time I’m leading and I need to keep playing the same game plan,” Piya said. “It’s very exciting, but I’m not going to think about the players behind me. If I’m not too nervous, I will have a chance to win. I was a bit nervous today.”
Hiratsuka, 39, is chasing a third victory of the year on the Asian Tour and soared high with three eagles in his impressive round. He holed a monstrous 45-foot putt on the sixth, a 15-foot putt on the 13th and drained a 12-footer at the last hole after a massive three-wood approach shot from 256 yards out.
“It was a special day,” the Japanese said. “I enjoy playing in Thailand [he won the Queen’s Cup in Samui in June] and I like it here as well, but I will have to watch out for Thongchai as he is the perfect golfer. We’ll have to keep an eye on him.”
Thongchai carded a 68 to stay in the hunt in tied third place, three back, as he kept alive his hopes of winning for the second straight week.
Thongchai moved menacingly up the leaderboard with a five-birdie round, but lamented missed opportunities on the greens once again.
Overnight leader Lee Sung of South Korea stumbled to a 75 to join Thongchai on 205 in the season finale.
Lu Wen-teh was Taiwan’s best-placed contender after a 71 put him 11 shots behind the leader on three-under 213. Chan Yih-shin was a shot further back after a 70, while Lin Keng-chi’s 73 gave him a one-under total. Lin Wen-hong carded a disappointing 76 to leave him even-par for the tournament, while Lin Chie-hsiang (73) and Lu Wei-chih (75) were a shot further back.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER