By Keith Jackson
Patty Tavatanakit produced a strong finish to her third round to remain on course to be the first home winner of the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Tavatanakit birdied three of the last five holes to return a 70 and edge one ahead of Caroline Masson and Atthaya Thitikul, with Lydia Ko just two off the pace heading into Sunday’s final round in Chonburi.
Three clear at the halfway stage, Tavatanakit soon had a five-shot lead over the field when she birdied the second after Thitikul had begun her round with a bogey.
But last month’s ANA Inspiration champion dropped only her second shot of the tournament at the third, and another went at the ninth before the Thai star made a clutch par save at the 10th.
Tavatanakit regrouped and got back to level par for the day with a birdie at 14, and she picked up further shots at the 15th and 18th to restore her place on top of the leaderboard on 18 under par.
“I feel like I was a little bit more nervous at ANA just because that was my first time leading after round three, let alone it was a major,” she said. “But this event is sort of the same feeling. I’m still a little nervous, but I feel like I have more self-control and self-awareness in the sense I’m able to bring myself back to normal, more normal than ANA I would say.
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“If anything, I’m just going to do everything the same. I feel like I’ve been so tired every single day that I think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.
“I mean, I’m just happy to be home and can’t really control the result. I don’t think practicing today would do any help just because I’m already so fried, and if I try to use all my energy today it would not be enough for tomorrow, you know.
“So conserving energy is important, and I’m going to go home and do whatever it is that I been doing not relating to golf, and just have fun and just stay relaxed.”
Tavatanakit’s compatriot Thitikul recovered from her two bogeys in three holes with six birdies to card a 68, with Masson joining her in a share of second place after the German birdied the final three holes to fire a 67.
Ko also carded a 67 to move to 16 under, while Women’s Open champion Sophia Popov gave herself an outside chance of victory with a superb, bogey-free 65 which propelled her to within six of the lead.
“It’s just like you have to go after it, whether it’s the first round or the fourth round it doesn’t really matter,” said the German. “You really have to play aggressively all of the days and just kind of see what happens in the end. Take whatever you can get, but you definitely have to be aggressive in a no-cut event.”
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