By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
The 16-year-old girl, winner at this course two years ago, sprinkled her dazzling round with seven birdies -- five in succession from holes 7-11 -- and an eagle on the seventh without a single bogey to lead with a 17-under-par 199 which was also the new record after 54 holes.
“I didn’t start well until I made my first birdie on the fifth and an eagle on the seventh, which gave me the confidence going into the back nine,” said Atthaya, after scoring the lowest round in the tournament’s history. Her round of 63 is also a course record.
“Then I started playing better, hitting close to the pins which allowed me to make easy putts,” added the teenager who kept herself relaxed by singing songs.
The local prodigy had made it clear at the start of the week that she had entered the tournament mainly to learn from the professionals. Ironically, she has outperformed the rest of the field and set herself as the heavy favourite to win on Sunday. However, she was humble and insisted she still needed to learn more from the experienced players.
“There are some tough shots that professional players can play which I need to learn. The pros also fight their way back after they make easy mistakes. I think I have so much to learn from them,” said the teenager who is on the verge of becoming the youngest player to win twice on the LET.
“There’s no guarantee yet. The two German players are also playing well. I just need to concentrate on my game plan by hitting the fairways, the greens and make putts.”
Cowan, a 23-year-old from Hamburg, shot a 67 for a total nine-under-par 207
“It was a lot cooler than the last two days. I was hitting some good shots close. My putting is a lot better than yesterday [Friday]. I was reading them better,” said Cowan who needs a runner-up finish in this week’s Ladies European Thailand Championship if she is to move into the top five on the LET order of merit and seal a place in The Evian Championship next month
“I saw on the board she [Atthaya] was 15 at that point. I was like ‘What’s going on there?’ and then I got to the next board and it’s -17. I’m like ‘wow she’s playing some really good golf’. Anything can happen on the last day. But I’m probably going to have to play for second unless she doesn’t play as well as she did today,” Cowan added.
Tour rookie Henseliet was at one point on 11-under but two bogeys in the last three holes pushed her back to nine-under.
“I was playing well but sadly I finished quite poorly. But eight shots back going into the final round wasn’t what I would expect,” said the 20-year-old winner of the Skafto Open in Sweden last week.
“Eight shots behind isn’t easy to catch up. I will play aggressive tomorrow and we will see what’s going to happen,” the German said.