Changhwa, Chinese Taipei, December 28: Thailand’s Donlaphatchai Niyomchon edged closer to a breakthrough victory on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) when he returned with a bogey-free four-under-par 68 to extend his overnight lead to two at the Taifong Open on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Donlaphatchai, who held the lead since the opening round, highlighted his flawless card with four birdies to stay atop the leaderboard with a three-day total of nine-under-par 207 at the season-ending event, which boasts a prize purse of US$160,000.
His playing partners Atiruj Winaicharoenchai of Thailand and Chinese Taipei’s Tseng Tzu-hsuan posted matching 69s to share second place with Japan’s Daisuke Yasumoto (68) and Wang Wei-lun (67) of Chinese Taipei at the highly acclaimed Taifong Golf Club.
Donlaphatchai took advantage of his accuracy off the tee and his solid iron-play to keep up his chase for one of the seven coveted Asian Tour cards on offer at the event, which is celebrating its sixth consecutive edition on the ADT this week.
“My tee shots were good. I hit 16 greens today. It wasn’t as windy as yesterday. My best hole today was the fifth. I hit the green in two shots and had an eagle putt from about 15 feet,” said Donlaphatchai, who sits in 94th place on the Merit rankings and needs a victory to help him break into top-seven on the final money list.
“I wasn’t thinking too much out there. I just told myself to play shot by shot. It will be the same case tomorrow. I’ll just focus on my game and not think too much,” added Donlaphatchai, who won on his home soil last year for his first professional victory in nine years.
Atiruj lamented a cold putter but took pride in his solid approaches for a commendable round of five birdies against two bogeys. The 19-year-old Thai is playing in his first season on the ADT and making his debut appearance in the Taifong Open this week.
“I played my iron shots really good today, especially on the back nine. Nice to get that three birdies in a row from the 12th. I was able to hit it close. My putting wasn’t as good today. I gave myself a lot of opportunities on the front nine but couldn’t make most of them.
“I am just going to aim for an under-par round tomorrow. A top-five or top-10 finish would be great, said Atiruj, who joined the play-for-pay ranks in 2018 and claimed his first victory on home soil in what was only his second start as a professional.
Local hotshot Wang rekindled his love affair with the Taifong Golf Course when he fired six birdies against a bogey to put himself in the mix for a second ADT title at the event, where he came in runner-up in 2016 and finished top-10 last year.
“I’ve played this course a lot of times. I kind of know how to navigate my way around here. I have had some good results here. Tomorrow I will just try my best but if the weather is not good, I wouldn’t play too aggressively too.”
“Coming into this week, I really have no expectations. I have already achieved my goal of getting my Asian Tour card this year so I’m not thinking too much now. It’s nice to put myself in a good position again for the final round tomorrow,” said the 26-year-old Wang.
The leading seven players, not otherwise exempted, on the final 2019 ADT Order of Merit following the conclusion of the Taifong Open on Sunday will earn their Asian Tour cards for the 2020 season.