Lee Westwood saw his huge advantage in the inaugural Thailand Golf Championship reduced to four shots following the third round today, with South African Charl Schwartzel leading the chasing pack with a second successive 66.
Westwood had boasted an 11-stroke lead at the start of the day but he could not continue his stunning form as he carded a disappointing one-over-par 73 at the Amata Spring Country Club to slip back to 19 under for the tournament.
That allowed Schwartzel to significantly close on the Englishman after he recorded another round of 66.
Westwood had made the first 60 of his career on day one and then followed it up with a similarly impressive 64 yesterday, but the Worksop golfer found it much tougher going today.
After not dropping a single shot in the opening two rounds, he suffered a bogey on the par-five second. He also bogeyed the sixth but birdies at the fourth, 11th and 15th saw Westwood heading for another sub-par round.
However, the 38-year-old then dropped further shots at both the 16th and 17th before closing with a par.
While Westwood, whose round was the worst of the 17 leading players, struggled to replicate his earlier success, Schwartzel took up the charge in stunning fashion.
This year’s Masters winner downed four successive birdies from the second hole and then added three more on the back nine.
It might have been an even better day for the South African but he bogeyed the par-four 18th – his only dropped shot of the round.
Three shots behind Schwartzel in third place on the leaderboard was American Michael Thompson after his 69, with Dutchman Guido Van der Valk two shots further back on 10 under.
England’s Simon Dyson is fifth on nine under while former Asian Tour number one Jyoti Randhawa of India is sixth on eight under following his round of 65.
Westwood said: “(I had) a few bad breaks...if you had offered me a four-shot lead on Thursday morning I would have taken it.
“After a 60 and 64, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the third round but like I said, a four-shot lead into the last round is a good position to be in. It drains you (to be leading) but it’s a better position to be leading obviously other than to chase.
“Today, Charl had the momentum and I was fighting against it. It’s not the easiest golf course here. I’ll just go out and focus on my own game and shoot another low score.”
Although he is still trailing by four, Schwartzel believes he now has a chance of victory – something that looked unlikely 24 hours ago.
The South African said: “At least there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. Four shots is not much out there.
“I’ve been playing really well and I can shoot a low score on this golf course. I felt I should have shot a 63 (today).
“I’ve won about two or three tournaments where I was four shots behind. I’ve done it before. You sort of know that you have to play well and there are no doubts in your mind.”
He added on www.asiantour.com: “You can sense when the tides are turning. I’m making four birdies in a row and he is not getting anything at all. You can sense that all of a sudden it has changed. The lead is getting shorter and shorter and it has to affect you. You won’t be human if it doesn’t.”