(Reuters) - Big-hitting Australian Scott Hend carded a six-under-par 66 in the third round to take a one-stroke lead in the Thailand Classic on Saturday.
Hend, the winner of the Driving Distance category on four occasions since 2009, took his total to 15-under, one ahead of Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and three-times Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Thongchai Jaidee (67) of Thailand.
Another local hope Kiradech Aphibarnrat posted a 70 to be at fourth spot in the $2 million tournament, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
Hend made birdies on the second and seventh holes but his game went up a gear after making the turn at the Black Mountain Golf Club.
He added another shot on the 10th, sunk an eagle three on the 609-yards 13th and picked up further gains on the 15th and 17th before giving up one on the last for his day’s only blemish.
“It was a good round and puts me in a good position,” Hend said. “I played very solidly and putted quite well. I only made one mistake so it was pretty good.
“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.”
Overnight leader Jimenez stayed in the hunt with a spotless round of 69.
“I’m playing well and hitting it well,” the 51-year-old said. “I missed a few putts but I’m creating lots of chances.
“It could have been five or six under today but that’s the game and you have to take it.”
Tournament ambassador Thongchai also matched Jimenez in going bogey-free and was confident he had the game to challenge Hend in the final round.
“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.
“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!
“My style is not so aggressive but I will use my accuracy and putting and try to go low tomorrow.”
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Martyn Herman