Lin Wen-tang overcame an early wobble to post a three-under-par 68 and a two-shot lead over Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Shaun Norris of South Africa after the third round of the US$1.5 million Ho Tram Open on Saturday.
The 41-year-old Lin dropped a bogey and double bogey in his opening four holes at The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip before fighting back with six birdies for a three-day total of 13-under-par 200 total in the inaugural Asian Tour tournament.
World number 12 Garcia endured a topsy-turvy day as well en route to a 68 which kept him in the chase for a first title of the year alongside Norris, who charged into contention with a 65 in Vietnam’s richest sporting event, dubbed Asia’s Grandest Stage.
Thai veteran star Thaworn Wiratchant, bidding for a record 19th Asian Tour victory, carded a 68 to lie three back alongside a resurgent Indian Himmat Rai, who also carded a 68. American Paul Peterson (68) will start the final round four shots back of the leader.
Six-time winner Lin said he was nervous playing alongside Garcia in the final group before recovering his composure with some fantastic iron play. “I played with the star players, so I felt a bit scared. My caddy told me to calm down and I recovered nicely.
“After that I didn’t hit a single bogey and on the 17th hole, I had a 25-foot birdie. I was like ‘wow, I’m so lucky’. After being three over, I said, let’s do this. No time to be scared anymore.
“Sergio hits the ball so long and he is such a nice guy. Every time I make a birdie, he will tell me ‘good birdie Lin’. I haven’t won in two years but my wife told me not to think ahead. I just want to enjoy the final round tomorrow. If the win comes then good, if not, I’ll try again next time.”
Ryder Cup star Garcia, who returned early in the morning to complete his weather-disrupted second round in 68, dropped a double bogey on six after finding bushes with his drive and then dropped a closing bogey with an errant drive. But six birdies on the card ensured he remained within striking reach.
“I was bruised by one bad drive. On six, I hit it exactly where I wanted but the wind was coming in from the right and I hit a cut and the ball didn’t move. The one on 18 wasn’t a good drive. Overall I felt like I played quite well other than those two holes. Made some good putts on the back nine, missed some short ones for birdies too but I guess even with those hiccups, I still have a chance,” said the 35-year-old, who holds 22 Tour wins around the world.
With fianceé Candice Venter caddying, Norris, who won his maiden Asian Tour title in Taipei in October, wielded a hot putter to earn a final two-ball pairing with leader Lin on Sunday.
“I was putting very well and I kept giving myself birdie chances. You definitely need a lot of imagination to try and play in the wind. You need to think your way around the course but I enjoy courses that are tricky. It is like playing a game of chess,” said Norris, who uses the broomhandle putter which will be prohibited from 2016 onwards.
Thaworn, who will turn 49 later this month, finished strongly with three birdies coming home. Wearing a yellow shirt to mark the king of Thailand’s birthday, the unorthodox swinging veteran was happy to lurk behind the leaders.
“Play under par, I’m happy. Every hole was good except hole number two where I hit it into the hazard (for double bogey). This week, I’m hitting every club good, driver, three wood, all good. The wind makes it hard (on the putting),” he said.
Since opening in October 2014, the links-style layout located two hours southeast of Ho Chi Minh City has been hailed by many of the world’s leading authorities on golf. In January, GOLF Magazine named it one of the world’s best new courses. In July, the Australian Financial Review called it “as pretty a course as you’ll find on the entire Asian continent. Last month it was named the World’s Best New Course at the World Golf Awards ceremony in Portugal.
cores after round 3 of the Ho Tram Open being played at the par 71, 6,797 Yards The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip course (am – denotes amateur):
200 – LIN Wen-tang (TPE) 65-67-68.
202 – Shaun NORRIS (RSA) 66-71-65, Sergio GARCIA (ESP) 66-68-68.
203 – Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 64-71-68, Himmat RAI (IND) 66-69-68.
204 – Paul PETERSON (USA) 66-70-68.
206 – Geoff OGILVY (AUS) 69-70-67, Charlie WI (KOR) 62-72-72.
207 – Sunghoon KANG (KOR) 72-68-67, Thomas BJORN (DEN) 69-70-68, KOH Deng Shan (SIN) 67-71-69, Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 71-67-69, Nicholas FUNG (MAS) 65-70-72, Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 68-67-72.