Big-hitting Scott Hend of Australia used his power drives to his full advantage when he carded a six-under-par 66 to take a third round one-shot lead at the inaugural US$2 million True Thailand Classic presented by Black Mountain on Saturday.
Black Mountain sponsored star and tournament ambassador Thongchai Jaidee spearheaded the local charge with a flawless 67 to share second place with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez who signed for a 69 at the Black Mountain Golf Club.
Winner of the Driving Distance category on four occasions on the Asian Tour since 2009, Hend proved his booming drives would make the difference.
After making birdies on the second, seventh and 10th holes, it was an eagle-three on the 609-yards par-five 13 which soared the 41-year-old Australian to the top of the leaderboard.
Combining accuracy with distance, Hend drove the ball about 400 yards from the tee. He then fired his approach shot onto the front of the green where he would duly convert an eagle from about three-feet.
“It was a nice long drive on 13. It hit a wet patch from the rain and picked up a bit of speed down the hill. I hit a nice little five iron in there and got a good bounce on the fringe of the green.
“I’m not sure how close it was to going in but it was nice to walk up there and see it very close. I did wonder if it had gone in when I heard the cheers. I couldn’t see the hole from where I was,” said Hend.
Hend picked up another gain on 15 and 17 but three-putted the last for a three-day total of 15-under-par 201.
“This is where you want to be, in the last group on a Sunday. I’ll be playing with Thongchai again and Miguel so it’ll be a good little test tomorrow.
“I’m very lucky and privileged to be playing golf for a living and being in contention on Sundays,” said Hend.
While Thongchai was pleased with his overall efforts, the Thai is also wary of the threat Hend poses.
“I played really well again today. I managed to hit 17 greens and gained lots of confidence from my finishing hole which I birdied,” said Thongchai, who marked his card with five birdies.
“This course favors the long hitters. Just look at Scott Hend, he was getting on the greens in two on all of the par-fives. On 17, he could even reach the green from the tee!” added Thongchai.
Thongchai believes he has the strategy to counter Hend’s threat and is determined to put up a gallant fight on home ground.
“I feel good and I’ll just stick to my game plan. My style is not so aggressive but I will use my accuracy and putting and try to go low tomorrow,” said Thongchai.
Imenez, who shrugged off a bout of flu before carding rounds of 67 and 66 to establish a one shot halfway lead, had to scrap hard for a 69.
The veteran however remains optimistic of his chances.
“I only had three birdies but it was a bogey-free round. The last hole was close to being a birdie, but just missed. I’m playing well and hitting it well,” said Jimenez.