CHONBURI, Thailand – Charl Schwartzel tightened his grip on the Thailand Golf Championship on Saturday, taking a five-shot lead into the final day as he edged closer to ending a wretched 20-months without a win.
Schwartzel, who has not tasted victory since the US Masters in 2011, kept the chasing pack at arms-length with a controlled four under 68 for the day giving him 18 under overall at the Asian Tour event.
While it was not as polished as his flawless matching 65s in the opening two rounds, the South African enters Sunday confident of a pillar-to-post victory.
“I feel comfortable, I won't change (my approach) I will just keep playing... it's a game of patience and if it's my time, it's my time,” said Schwartzel, who was runner-up at the event last year.
Sweden's Daniel Chopra is in second at 13 under overall, after a three under 69, while home favourite Thitiphun Chuayprakong gamely notched five birdies to offset four bogeys to finish a shot behind.
But Schwartzel's solid putting, including an eagle at the 11th, gave him welcome breathing space at the top of the leaderboard with 18 holes left to play.
“It's very difficult with it being so hot,” he said of the scorching temperatures in Chonburi over the last three days, attributing his consistent low scoring to great “saves” of poor tee shots as much as dropping in the birdies.
“I'm a bit tired, but it helps when you are in the lead... with a bit of adrenaline,” he added.
Behind the leading group the big names finally made a charge, with Ryder Cup star Sergio Garcia scoring a 68 to leave him ten under for the tournament and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts finally finding some form to end the day seven under overall.
But it appears to be too late for both of them with a yawning gap to Schwartzel, barring a sudden collapse in form.
Defending champion Lee Westwood repeated his two under 70 of the first day, leaving him at seven under where he was joined by Masters champion Bubba Watson and Japan's Ryo Ishikawa, who both disappointed. – Sapa-AFP