Americans Chris Stroud and Ryan Moore carded 68 and 69 respectively to share top spot on 12-under-par after an eventful third round of the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC). With eight players within four shots of the leads, the US$7 million event is set for an exciting finish at KLGCC’s West Course tomorrow.
Moore, the first round leader, reached six-under-par for his round with a birdie on the 10th hole but bogeys on 12, 13, 15 and 16 prevented him from pulling away from the pack. Looking for his first PGA Tour win, Stroud also struggled on the back nine with bogeys on 12 and 15 but a birdie on the 16th got him 12-under-par.
Another American, Gary Woodland carded a five-under-par 67 to move to 11-under-par, tied with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat who had quite an eventful 69.
Aphibarnrat was setting up over his ball on the 13th fairway when the ball appeared to move. After consulting a rules official, it was determined that the burly Thai t never grounded his club and was spared a penalty under Rule 18-2b. Tournament officials met with Aphibarnrat before he signed his scorecard and verified that he had not violated the rule.
Aphibarnrat will be one of the favourites as he won the Malaysian Open on the same course in April this year. The talented 24-year-old will now shoot for his biggest career victory and also his second title on the West Course.
“I feel really pleased with the way I’m playing. It was a good start, three days in a row on the front nine, but struggling a bit on the back. Three rounds, kind of mixed golf on the back nine. But I’m working on my putting a lot from yesterday, and that helped. I’m happy with three under, and just a good chance which I’ll try to catch up in the final round,” said Kiradech, who made three birdies and an eagle in his opening 10 holes before dropping a double bogey on 14.
A win on Sunday will earn Kiradech a handsome cheque of US$1.26 million, playing rights on the PGA Tour for essentially the next three years, a place at the Masters Tournament next April plus a host of other invitations.
“I’m just going to try to play my game, stick to my game plan and just play on my form,” said Kiradech. “I don’t want to look at the leaders too much, so if you look at the score, maybe the results are so tough to make the score. Just try to focus, play and enjoy the final round. I don’t want to put a lot of pressure to me. Like I said, I just want to play good golf, have fun.”
It wasn’t quite a fun finish when Kiradech was asked to review the incident on the 13th. He later explained: “I had my mark on the ball, and I put the ball always in the centre. When I walked to the ball, I only looked at the pin. First time I looked back at the ball, I could see my marker not being on the centre. Normally it is, and I’m sure my ball is moving. I walk in and just walk out and called the rules (official), and I’m really sure that I haven’t touched the club before the ball moved. There was no penalty,” said Kiradech, who will play in the penultimate group in the final round.
Moore was disappointed with his poor stretch on the back nine where he dropped four shots over five holes after turning in 31. “It was almost two different days out there. I really got going, really hot early, making a lot of putts and making a lot of birdies. And then just kind of hit a pretty rough stretch there in the middle,” said Moore.
“I’ve obviously been playing some pretty good golf this week. It’s been a little up and down these last couple days, but I have enough positives that I’ve just got to kind of keep doing exactly what I’m doing.”
Stroud hit four birdies in a row from the fifth hole to launch himself into contention on a day when the leaders came back into the field through dropped shots on the more challenging back nine.
“I really hung in there, gave myself a lot of good looks and I got on a good tear there. There’s a lot of wedges, but I’ll tell you what, if you do not hit a fairway, you’re going to struggle to make par, and that’s really my focus,” he said.
2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, who started the day with a four-shot lead, stumbled on the back nine with an ugly 41 and settled for a 76 to drop down the leaderboard into joint sixth place on nine-under-par.
CIMB Classic Round 3 Leading Scores:
-12 Chris Stroud (67, 69, 68), Ryan Moore (63, 72, 69)
-11 Gary Woodland (68, 70, 67), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (67, 69, 69)
-10 Jerry Kelly (71, 69, 66)
-9 Graham Delaet (72, 67, 68), Stewart Cink (70, 68, 69), Keegan Bradley (65, 66, 76)
-8 Kyle Stanley (73, 67, 68), Sergio Garcia (66, 71, 71)