Panuphol, Phachara chase leader Kim

Panuphol, Phachara chase leader Kim

Phuket: Kim Bi-O held off a peloton of leading players from Thailand to keep his lead at the US$1 million Laguna Phuket Championship yesterday after the third round at the Laguna Golf Phuket.

The Korean, the first and second round leader, signed for a one-over-par 71 to lead by a stroke from Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat and Phachara Khongwatmai, who carded 68 and 69 respectively.

"It was a tough day. I was a little out of sync, I'm not sure why," said Kim, who is on 11 under. "I was playing with two great Thai players, so it was tough. I am pleased the round is over and I can reset for the final round."

Kim, who is chasing his first Asian Tour win, appeared to be in control after nine holes, after touring the front side in one under but the wheels came off on the homeward stretch with bogeys on 10 and 15.

Kim, 31, narrowly held the lead all day until Panuphol, playing in the group ahead, drew level with him for the first time when he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on 17.

But the Thai dropped a shot on the par-four 18th after hitting his approach short, chipping to three feet and missing the putt.

Said Panuphol: "I am still struggling with a shoulder injury, but I am playing well, enjoying the course and it's great to be in contention. It's going to be tight on the final day with so many in contention."

Phachara, 22, is another looking for his first Asian Tour victory after a plethora of top finishes -- he has finished second on six occasions.

"We had a battle on the back nine and I am sure it will be the same on the last day," said Phachara, who was paired with Kim.

Thailand's Chanachok Dejpiratanamongkol, Prom Meesawat, and Natipong Srithong, and Korean Chang Yik-Eun finished tied for fourth on eight under.

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