Manila, November 22: Singapore’s Mardan Mamat cruised into a four-shot lead at the US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters presented by 918.com after firing a sparkling six-under-par 66 on Saturday.
The 47-year-old, who has held a share of the first and second lead, put himself in prime position to lift a fourth Asian Tour victory at Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club after a round that included seven birdies against a lone bogey for a three-day total of 17-under-par 199.
Thai hotshot Kiradech Aphibarnrat birdied the last hole for a 68 to ensure a final round match-up with Mardan in what is the richest golf tournament in the Philippines while Frenchman Lioniel Weber fired a superb 64 to move into third place, five behind the leader.
American Berry Henson, who also carded a 64, settled for a share of fourth place with Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung, who returned a 68. Last year’s runner-up Prom Meesawat of Thailand produced a new course record of 63 which included seven birdies and one eagle that left him in tied ninth place on 208.
After ending his second round with four birdies, Mardan, the 2012 Philippine Open champion, picked up from where he left off by firing four straight opening birdies to take full control of the Resorts World Manila Masters.
“I got off to a great start which kind of gave me a good cushion. I kept myself in my own zone. I knew I had to stay calm to maintain my lead. I had to keep myself comfortable which is key for me to playing well. I managed to do that and I am happy,” said Mardan.
Two of his three Asian Tour victories were wire-to-wire triumphs but the Singaporean, who is battling to save his Tour card as he lies in 74th position on the Order of Merit, knows the threat that reigning Asian Tour number one Kiradech will pose on Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to play with Kiradech. He’s a very good player and I know he is a long-hitter so we will see how it goes,” said Mardan. “I’ve been struggling with my game all these while so it would mean a lot for me to win this tournament. I think I would move to the Philippines if I can win here again (laughs).”
The 25-year-old Kiradech, chasing a third Asian Tour victory, birdied the par five 18th hole to ensure he got into the final pairing with Mardan. But the big-hitting Thai hopes a lucky birdie on 15, where he thought he had initially driven his tee shot out of bounds, could be the turning point.
“I got lucky as it hit a tree and bounced back into the course and I made birdie on that hole. It could be a big turning point for me,” Kiradech said. “I am very solid right now. Last two days, I’m playing good golf, striking a lot of good iron shots.
“Mardan’s golf is solid and this course suits his game as he’s a consistent player. If I can get some early birdies tomorrow, I might be able to put some pressure on him.”
Weber took advantage of a hot putter to move into contention as he chases for a maiden win at the Resorts World Manila Masters. “Everything went well. I played my irons very well and my putting was good too. I struggled a bit with my putter in the last tournament but it worked for me today. It was less windy compared to the first two rounds. I guess that explains the low scores,” said the 24-year-old, who is currently ranked 70th on the Merit list.
Henson, also a former Philippine Open champion, produced an eight-birdie round to give himself an outside chance of winning. “I played some solid golf, like finally … It’s been a long year for me. I love this golf course. I honestly felt a low round coming after my round yesterday. I still feel like I haven’t shot my lowest round out here yet,” said the 35-year-old Californian.
Sponsors of the Resorts World Manila Masters include Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club, Bally Technologies, Aristocrat, International Gaming Technology, Renoir Implementation Services, Marriott, Philippine Airlines, Maybank, PLDT and Avis.
Scores after round 3 of the Resorts World Manila Masters being played at the par 72, 7337 Yards Manila Southwoods GcC course (a- denotes amateur):
199 – Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 65-68-66.
203 – Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 66-69-68.
204 – Lionel WEBER (FRA) 70-70-64.
206 – Berry HENSON (USA) 74-68-64, Nicholas FUNG (MAS) 69-69-68.
207 – Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 70-73-64, Paul PETERSON (USA) 68-70-69, HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 67-71-69.
208 – Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 73-72-63, Javi COLOMO (ESP) 69-69-70, Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) 65-73-70, Danny CHIA (MAS) 66-71-71.
209 – Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 67-75-67, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 69-73-67, Simon YATES (SCO) 70-72-67, Arie IRAWAN (MAS) 71-71-67, Jake HIGGINBOTTOM (AUS) 72-69-68, George GANDRANATA (INA) 70-70-69, Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 71-68-70, Richard T. LEE (CAN) 71-68-70