Padraig Harrington’s hopes of a first tournament win for more than two years ended when he carded a three over 75 in the third round of the Thailand Open to slip 11 shots off the pace.
Only one of the 72 players who made the cut fared worse than the Dubliner who dropped two shots in his first three holes and was four over with three to play before he made his lone birdie of a bitterly disappointing day at the par-five 16th at Thana City Golf & Sports Club.
Just two strokes off the pace starting the day after opening rounds of 67 and 66, Harrington’s hopes of celebrating St Patrick’s Day with his first tournament victory since October 2010 began to fade when he bogeyed the first and dropped another shot at the par-five third.
Another shot went at the par-four ninth, sending him out in three over 39 before he bogeyed the 15th to kiss all hopes of salvaging something from the day goodbye. Despite his birdie at the 16th, he was outscored by 10 strokes by his playing partners, new leader Lucas Lee and defending champion Chris Wood, finishing the day in joint 46th on eight under.
Brazilian Lee drained an eight-foot birdie putt on the last for a 65 to snatch a one-stroke lead over Wood and China’s Hu Mu on 19 under in the $1m event which is jointly sanctioned by OneAsia and the Japan Golf Tour Organisation .
Thai-based Scot Simon Yates celebrated his 43rd birthday with a 64, to share fourth place at 17 under with overnight leader Scott Strange of Australia who carded a 68.
Born in Brazil to émigré Korean parents, Lee finished seventh at Q-School in 2012 and parlayed that into a top 50 finish on the OneAsia Order of Merit last year.
Although he has won a couple of one-day professional tournaments and finished second four times on the Canadian Tour, the 25-year-old is still seeking his breakthrough victory on a major circuit.
He refused to be intimidated on Saturday despite playing with defending champion Wood (65) and three-time Major winner Harrington.
“After the first hole you try to forget who they are and try to beat them like any other of the guys, but they do hit the ball very well,” said Lee, who is fluent in English, Korean and Portuguese.
“It was a good learning experience. Tomorrow I’m just going to try and be as positive as possible, while also keeping it simple.”
Wood, who made his breakthrough professional victory at this tournament last year and followed it up with victory at the European Tour’s Qatar Masters in January, said he was delighted so far with his defence of the title.
“I’m really pleased with my efforts so far. I came here to put in a good defence,” he said.
“It will take something in the mid 60s to win.”
Harrington’s fortunes looked to be on the up after an excellent putting display on Friday but he must now re-group for Sunday’s final round and next week’s Malaysian Open on the European Tour.
The Dubliner opted to play back to back events in Asia to boost his confidence by getting into contention and while Saturday’s 75 is a setback, especially with regard to his putting, he will have at least another five competitive rounds before the Masters as he follows his appearance in Malaysia with a final warm up for Augusta in the Valero Texas Open a forthnight later.