- August 09, 2014
By PGA TOUR China staff, PGATOUR.COM
Thailand's Charoenkul fires 66, takes two-shot lead at Yunnan Open
KUNMING, China -- Gunn Charoenkul had just bogeyed the par-3 12th hole to fall into a tie with second-round leader Xin Jun Zhang. That's when the Thai golfer went to work. Charoenkul went on a birdie binge, making four in a row, made par on his final two holes of the afternoon and finished with a 6-under 66 to take the 54-hole lead at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open. Zhang, who trailed by as many as three strokes late in the round, birdied the 18th hole at Yulongwan Golf Club to close the gap on Charoenkul. He sits alone in second, two strokes behind with 18 hole to play.
For a while, it looked like Charoenkul and Zhang would run away from the rest of the field. But a late birdie run by Chien Yao Hung moved the Taiwan-born player within striking distance. Hung is in third, four shots behind Charoenkul, thanks to three consecutive birdies to end his round. He shot a 5-under 67. South Korea's Todd Baek shared low-round-of-the-day honors (with China's Gui Ming Liao). Baek, a San Diego State product, fired a 7-under 65 to move into fourth place. He is six shots behind Charoenkul.
“I was pretty nervous today until about hole 12,” Charoenkul said, whose older brother is caddying for him this week. “He kind of talked me out of my nerves and got me to relax a little bit. That really cooled down my tension, and I started to make putts after that.” In bunches.
Charoenkul tapped in for birdie on the par-5 13th hole then rolled in three more birdie putts to open up a three-shot lead on Zhang at that point.
Charoenkul probably should have stopped being nervous a couple of holes earlier when good fortune shined down on him. After pushing his tee shot into the right rough on the par-5 10th hole, Charoenkul said his original plan was to hit a bail-out second shot to the left of the green and then try to get up and down for birdie from there. Instead, his approach shot landed on the green and trickled to three feet. “I was pretty darn lucky on that shot,” Charoenkul said with a grin.
Zhang, who played with Charoenkul on Saturday and will again be in his group in the final round, was disappointed with his work on the greens. “My putting wasn't working well today, and putting, I think, acts as a major decider on this course.”
After making birdie on Yulongwan's par-5s in the first two days, Zhang parred No. 3 Saturday. He added three more par-5 birdies then stumbled on the final par-5 of the day, No. 16, making bogey there. “I was too powerful and hit to a place where it was going to be hard to get up and down,” Zhang said. “Even worse was that I had three puts after getting onto the green.”
With a round to play, Charoenkul is in control as he seeks his fourth title in 2014 -- after winning three times on the Asean Tour earlier in the season. To win, Charoenkul will have to hold off Zhang, the Order of Merit leader who is looking for his second consecutive title, to go with his Earls Beijing victory. “There's still hope,” Zhang added following his round. “It's only a two-stroke deficit, and if I can improve on my putting, I do have a chance to win the title.”
- Thailand's Charoenkul and Arnond Vongvanij both tied for 15th at the Earls Beijing Open. Those finishes represent the best performances by Thai players on the PGA TOUR China Series in 2014. This week, Charoenkul leads the Yulongwan Yunnan Open with 18 holes to play, and Thai golfers Panuphol Pittayarat (tied for 12th), Chinnarat Phadungsil (tied for 29th) and Pariya Junhasavasdikul all made the cut.
With a round to play, Xin Jun Zhang is alone in second place. He's familiar with that position.
Besides his victory at the Earls Beijing Open, Zhang was runner-up at the Mission Hills Haikou Open, and he lost in a playoff to Brett Drewitt at the United Leasing Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open. Outside of his disqualification at the Lanhai Open (for signing an incorrect scorecard), Zhang has enjoyed nothing but top-10 finishes in 2014. His other top-10 came at the Buick Open (tied for eighth).
- Besides Xin Jun Zhang, the other winners of the 2014 PGA TOUR China Series' tournaments all made the Yulongwan Yunnan Open cut. Brett Drewitt is tied for 12th going into the final round, 11 shots behind leader Gunn Charoenkul. Sam Chien is tied for 24th, while David McKenzie is tied for 50th. J.H. Wang, who began the day tied for 16th, went in the other direction Saturday and is tied for 56th after his third-round 77.
- Xin Jun Zhang continued his streak of par-or-better rounds on the PGA TOUR China Series. With his 3-under 69 Saturday, Zhang ran his streak to 10 consecutive rounds. He has been under par in his last seven rounds.
- Gui Ming Liao missed the cut in his first four PGA TOUR China Series' starts then broke through at the Earls Beijing Open in June, tying for 63rd. He's set himself up for his best payday of the season this week, with his 69-73-65 start at the Yulongwan Yunnan Open. Prior to this week, Liao, a native of Fujian, had never broken 70 in a PGA TOUR China Series' tournament
- William Liu is the only amateur to make the cut. He is tied for 43rd after shooting an even-par 72 Saturday to go with his 68-74 start. He's 2-under for the tournament.
- Former University of Oregon player T.K. Kim shot his third consecutive under-70 round when he fired a 3-under 69 Saturday. Kim, who turned pro at the beginning of this year, is looking for his first PGA TOUR China Series top-10. He enters the final round tied for fifth. His best performance this year was his tie for 12th at the Mission Hills Haikou Open.
- The par-3 17th hole has only given up 26 birdies through the first 54 holes. There were nine there in the first round, five in the second and 12 Saturday. By comparison, there have been 104 bogeys on Yulongwan's second-to-last hole.
- For the second consecutive day, there were no bogey-free rounds.
Bogey-free rounds (3)
First Round (3): Lucas Lee, David Lutterus, Song Zhu
Second Round (0)
Third Round (0)