Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant set himself on course for a third title of the season after establishing a three-stroke lead at the end of penultimate round in the USD 300,000 Hero Honda [ Images ] Indian Open Golf Championship in New Delhi [ Images ] on Saturday.
The Asian Tour money leader consolidated his overnight lead, showing his putting class again as he did on the final 18th which he holed from 20 feet to return a card of 68 on round three at the Delhi Golf Club.
While Thaworn held his nerve on a slightly windy day, Harmeet Kahlon saw a bad back nine result in a one-over 73 and slip to overall eighth, a sobering performance after a brilliant 64 on the second day.
Not far behind Thaworn was his compatriot, 21-year old talented Prom Meesawat, who shot a three-under 68 for a tied second place with South African veteran Hendrick Buhrmann.
The Indian challenge for the title on the final day would rest with Jyoti Randhawa who returned a card of 67, the day's best for the whole field.
But the most favourite of the hosts, Arjun Atwal [ Images ], finally saw the rustiness of a month's break catch up with him as he returned a one-over 73, which left him nine strokes behind the leader.
It was a rare occasion when Atwal was placed outside the top-five going into the final round at the Indian Open.
Thaworn putted almost from anywhere. His first birdie came on the fifth hole, where holed it from eight feet.
The ninth was even better, the 39-year old Thai finding the pin from 11 feet. After two more birdies on the 11th and 12th, Thaworn went into the jungle with a three iron on the 13th tee. He chipped out and putted for a bogey.
There was another bogey on the 15th where he missed the pin from one feet.
But he made up for the twin setback with a birdie on the 545-yard 18th, where he recovered after shooting into the right bush.
He found the green with a brilliant sandwedge before putting from 20 feet.
"I tried to keep it in the fairways, it was a bit windy," said Thaworn, who has won two titles already this year -- the Indonesian Open and the Taiwan Open.
"The difference between Indonesian Open and here is the course. You have to be very straight here," he added.
Kahlon began with a birdie and had two more on the third and the seventh before topping it with an eagle on the eighth.
But then there was an inexplicable sudden change in his form that saw four bogeys on the 9th, 12th, 14th and 15th.
He recovered slightly with a birdie on the 16th, but then fell further with a bogey and a double bogey on the last two holes.
"I don't know," said the Chandigarh pro, who has been consulting Jonathan Yarwood, coach of US Open [ Images ] champion Michael Campbell.
"Couple of bad shots on the back nine let me down. But then it's golf. I had an eagle on the same 18th yesterday, today I had a double bogey," said the 35-year old Kahlon.
Randhawa on the other hand was happily ruing the missed chances for two more birdies. "It feels good to have the best card of the day. Five birdies and no bogeys, anybody would be happy with that," the 32-year old said.
Randhawa, who changed his swing recently, said he is feeling increasingly comfortably with his game as the event has progressed.
"On the first two days I think I lost my rhythm and was tentative. Having changed the swing, I needed to get that confidence."
But Randhawa, having won the Indian Open in 2000 and the Hero Honda Masters in 1998 and 1999 at the Delhi Golf Club, knows what it takes to conquer the narrow course here.
"You have to be conservative on the swing, not to be aggressive on the tee. Get on to the fairway, and then attack the pin with some strong putting," he said.
The highest ranked Indian in the world assured that he would do to his best that tomorrow.
"The way I look at it here, I have already won this event, so try and win it again. Finishing second or fourth is not a matter to me.
"I am sure Thaworn is not going to let it slip. Somebody has to make the charge."
Bet on Randhawa to do that on Sunday.
202- Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 68-66-68
205 - Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA) 66-70-69, Prom Meesawat (THA) 69-67-69
206 - Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 69-70-67
207 - Jaiveer Virk (IND) 68-71-68, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 67-70-70, Marcus Both (AUS) 70-66-71
208 - Gaurav Ghei (IND) 67-72-69, Anura Rohana (SRI) 64-75-69, Bryan Saltus (USA) 68-70-70, Digvijay Singh [ Images ] (IND) 66-70-72, Harmeet Kahlon (IND) 71-64-73
209 - Muhammed Munir (PAK) 68-72-69, Yusuf Ali (IND) 72-67-70
210 - Ross Bain (SCO) 69-73-68, James Kingston [ Images ] (RSA) 76-66-68, Shamim Khan (IND) 71-68-71, Scott Taylor (USA) 71-67-72, Gary Simpson (AUS) 68-69-73
211 - Rahil Gangjee (IND) 72-71-68, Robin Hodgetts (AUS) 72-70-69, Mukesh Kumar (IND) 71-69-71, Shiv Kapur (IND) 70-69-72, Alistair Presnell (AUS) 69-70-72 Rick Gibson (CAN) 73-65-73, Arjun Atwal (IND) 70-68-73, Gary Rusnak (USA) 69-68-74