Tirawat ready to step out of shadows as glory beckons in Japan

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Tirawat Kaewsiribandit
Tirawat Kaewsiribandit led after the first two rounds thanks to a pair of sublime 64s and began Saturday in the same impressive manner. Photo: Korean PGA Tour

Thailand’s Tirawat Kaewsiribandit opened up a three-shot lead after the third round of The 38th Shinhan Donghae Open today following a fine five-under-par 66.

Playing some of the best golf of his 12-year professional career he reached 19 under par for the tournament – which is the second lowest 54-hole total of the season.

Related: Young Tirawat steps up in the midst of quality field in Koma CC

Korean Si Woo Kim, the event’s marquee player with three wins on the PGA Tour, fired a 67 to sit solo second.

The event is being played in Japan for the first time in its history, at Koma Country Club, in Nara, near Osaka, and is tri-sanctioned by the Asian, Korean and Japan Tours.

 

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Canadian Yonggu Shin and Sanghee Lee from Korea both returned 66s and are a further shot back.

Tirawat led after the first two rounds thanks to a pair of sublime 64s and began today in the same impressive manner. 

 

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“I started really good today, with four birdies in the first six holes,” said 32-year-old Tirawat, who revealed his nickname is “Oat” because of his love of oatmeal.

Those birdies helped him make the turn in four-under-par 31 before he extended his lead with a birdie on the 13th. He surprisingly dropped his only shot of the day on the par-five 17th but then showed just how confident he is playing this course by making birdie on 18.

“Tomorrow will be the same game plan and I will try to make as many birdies as I can. I will focus on playing the par fives well as I like them and it’s where you can make your score,” he said.

“I am not thinking about the trophy, I am just thinking about my game and relaxing. I just want to have fun, and I also enjoyed playing with Si Woo Kim. He is a PGA Tour player and I want to learn from him.  After playing well today I have more confidence, my all around game was good.”

 

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Despite being relatively unknown, Tirawat has won before on the Asian Tour, at 2018 UMA CNS Open Golf Championship in Pakistan, and the year before that he also triumphed in the Betagro All Thailand Championship on the Asian Development Tour.

Si Woo Kim, ranked 75th in the world, will most definitely be his main threat tomorrow.

He got off to an unexpected bad start with bogeys on two and four but showed his class with a five-under-par back nine that included four birdies in a row from the 11th. 

Malaysian Ben Leong carded the joint-best round of the day, a 65, and is six behind the leader. He last won on the Asian Tour back at the 2008 Worldwide Selangor Masters and rekindled the kind of magic that saw win that title when he made six birdies in a row on the back nine starting from the 12th.

 

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He said: “On the front nine I thought I played pretty well but couldn’t score but I didn’t let that upset me. I just kept griding along. They say stay patient, and I did. I just tried not to get too involved in the golf game, and just enjoy the company.”