Aiken surges in front by 3 at Avantha Masters

By
Updated: March 16, 2013

Thomas Aiken fired a 10-under
62 on Saturday to grab the lead through three rounds of the Avantha Masters.

South Africa’s Aiken turned in the low round of the day at Jaypee Greens Golf
Club and finished 54 holes at 18-under 198 — good for a 3-shot lead over
overnight co-leader Wen-Chong Liang, who carded a 69.

“I concentrated very hard to play one shot at a time and it seemed to work,”
said Aiken. “It just shows what can happen.”

Kiradech Aphibarnrat highlighted his third-round 66 with a chip-in eagle on
the 12th and moved into a tie for third place with David Drysdale (68) at
minus-14.

Scott Hend (68), Tommy Fleetwood (69) and Joonas Granberg (69) share fifth at
13-under.

Chapchai Nirat, the other overnight leader, shot even-par and fell into a tie
for eighth with Julien Quesne (69), Jaakko Makitalo (69) and Gaganjeet Bhullar
(67) and 12-under.

First-round leader Chinnarat Phadungsil continued drop out of contention. On
Thursday, he used an inward 28 to grab a 5-stroke lead — one shot shy of the
European Tour first-round record. But he has turned in rounds of 74 and 72
since. The 24-year-old former European Tour Qualifying School graduate is tied
for 23rd place at 9-under.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, the highest ranked player in the field at world
No. 59, carded a 70 on Friday, picking up four birdies against a pair of
bogeys to reach 5-under 211 through 54 holes.

On Sunday, Aiken will go for his second European Tour win and first since
capturing the Open de Espana title in 2011.

Starting the day four shots off the lead, Aiken set the tone early with a
birdie on the first and an eagle on the par-5 five second. Additional birdies
at the fifth, seventh and eighth had the 29-year-old at 14-under through nine.

“I got off to a great start — holing a pitch shot on the second for eagle
always helps — and from then on I just stuck to my game plan,” continued
Aiken.

A birdie on the 10th gave Aiken a 2-shot lead over a six-man group which
included Liang, Hend and Drysdale. But the advantage quickly and briefly
disappeared when Aphibarnrat chipped in from a greenside bunker on the par-5
12th.

Aiken, though, continued to surge ahead, answering with a birdie on the 11th
and then turning the trick again at Nos. 15 and 16. A pair of closing pars had
the South African in the clubhouse with a 3-shot lead over Liang and Drysdale.

“Fortunately this week I’ve converted a lot of the opportunities that I’ve
had; the majority of them have gone in from inside ten feet and that’s what
makes the difference from a scoring point of view,” added Aiken.

Drysdale had just birded the 16th when Aiken wrapped up his stellar round, and
another birdie on the 17th had the Scot within two, but he promptly dropped
four back with a double bogey on the last.

NOTES: Liang is seeking his second European Tour victory and first since 2007
at the Singapore Masters … Drysdale is searching for his first European Tour
title in his 291st attempt … Phadungsil is a three-time winner on the Asian
Tour … S.S.P. Chowrasia, who won this event in 2008 and 2011, is 2-under
through 54 holes … Defending champion Jbe Kruger, who earned his first
European Tour win at this event a year ago, shot even-par over the first two
rounds and failed to make Friday’s cut … The tournament is being held at
Jaypee Greens Golf Club for the first time. DLF Golf & Country Club staged
the event the previous three years … This event is tri-sanctioned between
the European Tour, the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India.