Thai storms to 4-shot lead with solid 64

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Kasidit Lepkurte studies the line of his putt on No. 12. Contributed photo

Kasidit Lepkurte studies the line of his putt on No. 12. Contributed photo

Thai Kasidit Lepkurte put on a brilliant, bogey-free eight-under 64 to storm to a four-stroke lead over erstwhile leader Danny Masrin and two others, threatening to turn what had been billed as a wild finish into a runaway triumph in the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Friday.

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Five birdies at the front proved enough for the hot-putting Lepkurte to overhaul a three-stroke deficit and jump from joint fifth to the top of the heap, then pulled away from the pack by gunning down three more birdies coming home to complete a rare bogey-free round of 31-33 at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club, which finally took some beating from the elite foreign players despite windy condition after holding its ground in the first two days.

With a nine-under 207 total, Lepkurte moved four shots clear off Masrin, who blew a 34 start with a 37 for a 71 and dropped to joint second with Swede Oscar Zetterwall and Japanese Toru Nakajima, who both fired 68s, at 211.

“I played pretty good, everything – from putting, irons and my shots were simply good,” said Lepkurte, who hardly figured in the mix in the early going with a 71 and 72 but birdied three of the first four holes in the third round inside 15 feet and closed out his frontside stint with back-to-back birdies from 18 feet to move on top. He made it three straight with another birdie on the 10th then rammed in two more at 15 and 18, the last a 20-foot uphill feat to take complete control.

His 64, however, fell two strokes short off Cassius Casas’ record feat in the 2001 First Gentleman’s Cup.

“I have to play steady and avoid getting into trouble,” said Lepkurte, 18 holes away from nailing his first victory here and duplicating compatriot Itthipat Buranatanyarat’s victory last year in this $60,000 event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Zetterwell and Nakajima also sneaked from behind to assume the challenger’s role with the former spiking his 35-33 card with four birdies. He actually gunned down an eagle on the par-5 eighth but yielded the strokes right on the next with a double bogey.

Nakajima, a former leg winner on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, reeled farther back with a bogey on No. 3 but got back into the groove by rattling off five birdies in the last 11 holes for a 36-32 card.

Masrin, who took charge in the opener with a 68 and hung tough with a gutsy 72 halfway through the 72-hole championship co-organized by the Asian Development Tour and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., failed to keep in step with Lepkurte and company’s charge, hitting five birdies but fumbling with two bogeys and a double bogey for a 34-37.

“I played bad today [yesterday]and committed many mistakes,” rued Masrin. “But I’m still in contention. There are still 18 holes left and anything can happen here.”

James Ryan Lam survived a rollercoaster round of seven birdies against five birdies and took charge for the local bets with a 70 for a 213, six strokes adrift and in a tie with Dino Giacomazzi, who rallied with a seven-under 65, highlighted by five birdies in the last seven holes, and fellow American John Catlin, who carded a second 70.

Clyde Mondilla razed the frontside with four birdies and closed out with two more birdies against a bogey for a five-under 67, moving from out of nowhere to joint eighth at 214 with Dutch Guido Van der Valk, the erstwhile second-running bet who stayed in the hunt with three birdies in the first eight holes but dropped out with four bogeys in the last 11. He wound up with a 73.

The rest are too far behind to pose a threat for the top $10,500 purse with Rufino Bayron also firing a 67 to join American Nick Sherwood (66), South African Mathiam Keyser (69), Canadian Lindsay Renolds (73), Finland’s Janne Kaske (73) and Marvin Dumandan, who wavered with three bogeys at the front and rammed in a late eagle on No. 15 but still fell way behind with a 73.Tony Lascuna headed for another so-so finish, matching par 72 and slipping to joint 31st at 220 with four others heading to the last 18 holes of the last of two ADT events backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade and Champion.

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