Mexico City - Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat kept himself in position to notch a career fourth top-5 in a World Golf Championships event when he fired a 3-under 68 in the third round of the WGC-Mexico Championship to move up one rung to T7 on Saturday.
Kiradech, 29, began the day with an easy birdie at the reachable par 4 opening hole at Club de Golf Chapultepec before adding four more birdies on six, 11, 12 and 18 against dropped shots on seven and 16.
His three-day total of 8-under 205 will see Kiradech, the first Thai to hold a PGA TOUR card, start the final round on Sunday eight shots back of runaway leader Dustin Johnson, who now leads by four from Rory McIlroy after a masterclass 66 put him out well in front on 197.
Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, the only Asian to win a WGC event, produced a 67 to move to T16 on 209 while Haotong Li of China fought to a level par 71 for T30. Korea’s Byeong Hun An shot eight birdies against a lone bogey for the joint best score of the day with a 64 for T46 while India’s Shubhankar Sharma carded a 70 for T54.
Kiradech’s iron play helped deliver some easy birdies, chipping close on the first hole to three feet to snare his first birdie and then ending his round in style with a wedge approach shot to six feet of the pin in front of appreciative Mexican fans.
“I'm happy with my game. I started well with an easy birdie and I putted okay for my other birdies. The greens are still a bit tricky to read and I did miss some makeable chances but overall, it was a good score,” said Kiradech, who arrived in Mexico on the back of three missed cuts in his last four starts.
The likeable Thai finished T5 here 12 months ago for his career first top-5 in a WGC which sparked a superb year that featured two other top-5s in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. He’s hoping to keep his foot firmly on the pedal to keep his WGC run going.
“I feel I'm swinging it good and hopefully I can continue tomorrow and play another under par round. It's nice to start putting in some good scores and I guess it's due to the work that I've put in recently to get my game back up after the year-end break. I'll keep trying again and see if I can finish as high as I can. Hopefully I can hole a few more putts which will be very nice. It's been fun coming back to play in Mexico and it'll be especially good if I can finish well to end the week on a good note,” he said.
Tiger Woods, making his debut in the event, shot a 70 for T9, 10 shots back of Johnson who is chasing a sixth career WGC title.