Cheonan, Korea, September 10: Korea’s Lee Kyounghoon moved within touching distance of a second Kolon Korea Open crown after a third-round 68 saw him maintain his one-shot advantage atop the leaderboard on Saturday.
A steady, bogey-free round saw the defending champion post a 54-hole total of 13-under 200, a stroke ahead of a resurgent Kang Kyungnam, who closed in on his countryman with an up-and-down round of 67 that included seven birdies at Woo Jeong Hills Country Club.
Choi Jinho, who won the SK Telecom Open last year en route to second place on the OneAsia Order of Merit, carded a 68 to lie two shots off the pace alongside Lee Changwoo, who finished with a 69.
Hwang Junggon, a three-time winner on the Japan Golf Tour who was one of the pre-tournament favourites, put pressure on Lee Kyounghoon with three birdies in 13 holes but three dropped shots down the stretch saw him slip four strokes behind after signing for a level-par 71.
Lee has played on the Web.com Tour in the United States this season and is looking for a second straight victory in his home Open to ease the pain of missing out on the Finals and a shot at a US PGA Tour card.
One stroke ahead overnight, he made a fast start with a birdie at the first hole to extend his lead to two shots.
He increased his advantage to three strokes with another birdie at the par-three fourth before Hwang, playing in the group ahead, cut the margin to one with back-to-back birdies from the fifth.
However, the 25-year-old Lee nosed two shots clear again with a birdie at the par-five eighth hole as his liking for the layout shone through.
Lee, a strong front runner with two titles on the Japan Golf Tour to his credit, played par golf throughout the back nine and that proved good enough to keep his challengers at bay.
Kang, bidding to kickstart his career after serving his mandatory military service between 2013 and 2105, started the day two behind Lee and reduced the deficit to one despite a rollercoaster round.
The 33 year old, a multiple winner on the Korean Tour who has also claimed numerous top-five finishes on OneAsia, reached the turn in 35 after three birdies and two bogeys.
He was more consistent on the back nine with four birdies, including two from the 16th, and a sole bogey to ensure he was in the final group on Sunday.
Choi, currently 10th on the OneAsia Order of Merit, came roaring into the picture with three birdies in six holes from the 10th to take him to within a shot of Lee with three holes remaining before a bogey at the 16th dropped him to equal third place.
Lee Changwoo followed up his spectacular second-round 63 with a more sedate 69 that featured just two birdies, one of them coming crucially at the final hole.
Rising star Rattanon Wannasrichan was left to rue a disappointing finish after an early charge up the leaderboard
The 21-year-old Thai, a creditable 28th on last year’s OneAsia Order of Merit, made his move with four birdies in seven holes around the turn before going bogey, par, bogey from the 16th to sign for a 70. He leads the overseas challenge on six under 207, seven strokes off the lead.
Australia’s Jamie Arnold, winner of the OneAsia Qualifying School in March, sits one shot behind Rattanon after shooting a 68.
This year sees the 59th staging of the Kolon Korea Open and the highly prized title has been one in the past by Americans Rickie Fowler (2011) and John Daly (2003), Vijay Singh from Fiji (2007), Spain’s Sergio Garcia (2002) and Korean great K.J. Choi (1996 and 1999).