Patty takes slim lead into Honda final round

Atthaya one shot behind in crowded field of stars at Siam Country Club

Leader Patty Tavatanakit lines up a putt during the third round of the Honda LPGA Thailand golf tournament on Saturday at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya.

CHON BURI: Patty Tavatanakit is hanging on to a one-stroke lead over a crowded field as she heads into Sunday’s final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament.

Patty, who announced her arrival to the golf world with a major victory at the ANA Inspiration last month, is now bidding to become the first Thai to win the tournament since it was launched in 2006.

The fast-rising star shot a 2-under-par 70 on Saturday to move to 18 under after three rounds, one stroke ahead of compatriot Atthaya Thitikul and Caroline Masson of Germany.

Gaby Lopez of Mexico and former world No.1 Lydia Ko, whose game has revived this year, are two shots back at 16 under. Hannah Green of Australia, who finished second in Singapore last week, improved her chances with a sizzling round of 8 under par to move to 15 under.

Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn is still in contention at 13 under par. Defending champion Amy Yang of South Korea, who has won the Thailand event there times, shot a 70 for a share of 10th place at 12 under.

Even though she has led the tournament from the start, Patty admitted she has not been at her best this week.

“I’m not expecting to have a perfect tournament. But I’m really proud of myself and how I managed to hang in there,” she said after Saturday’s round.

“I feel like I’m not at 100% with my energy levels. But if anything, it just goes to show that you don’t have to be perfect to shoot under-par like today.

“It’s going to be tough and I’ve to be mentally prepared for what is to come,” she said of the challenge awaiting her on Sunday. “Whatever happens, I’m proud of myself because I’ve posted three good rounds already.”

The US$1.6-million tournament — it was cancelled last year — is being held behind closed doors under strict coronavirus protocols at Siam Country Club in Pattaya.

Bangkok native Patty, a former UCLA star, has been the talk of the golf world since winning the ANA Inspiration — one of five major tournaments on the LPGA calendar — in April for her first victory on the tour. Last week in Singapore she tied for third in the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

On Saturday the 21-year-old came down to earth after two consecutive 8-under rounds, recording four birdies and two bogeys.

Atthaya, meanwhile, got off to a rocky start with bogeys on the first and third holes, but rounded into form with six birdies to finish the day at 4 under par.

The Honda event is Patty’s first appearance in the LPGA Thailand as a professional, having played in the tournament twice as an amateur.

Ratchaburi native Atthaya, 18, is competing in her third LPGA Thailand and first as a pro.