Scott Hend two clear of the field after third day of Thailand Classic
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 13/03/16 11:10am
Scott Hend opened up a two-shot lead after the third round of the True Thailand Classic as Thomas Pieters roared into contention in Hua Hin.
Pieters defied the blustery conditions to fire his second straight 66 and set the early clubhouse target at 11 under, but Hend's battling 70 took him to the top of the leaderboard while first-round leader Peter Uihlein earned a place in Sunday's final group with an impressive 69.
Big-hitting Belgian Pieters, who was a late arrival at the Black Mountain Golf Club after he was laid low with a virus, birdied the first two holes and cruised to the turn in 33 before picking up three shots in four holes to start the inward half.
But the putts then dried up for the 24-year-old, twice a winner on the European Tour last season, although he parred safely in to emulate Friday's flawless round.
"I was very sick last week with a sinus infection and some fever and am still on antibiotics," Pieters told the European Tour. "That didn't help in this heat, but I'm feeling better day by day. You have to drink loads and eat loads. The first day Gary Stal passed out on the course. It shows that if you don't drink enough, you can get dizzy and it's not good.
"I haven't done much the last two days. I made my par putts and rolled in a couple of short birdie putts. I haven't really made any long putts but overall I'm quite happy."
Pieters will begin the final round three strokes adrift of Hend, who held the 54-hole lead in the inaugural staging of the event last season and continued his positive response to a poor performance in last week's WGC-Cadillac Championship, finishing on 22 over par at Doral.
The Australian was level for the day after two birdies and a pair of bogeys through 14 holes, but he got back under the card when he chipped in for birdie at 15, and another gain at the 17th consolidated his advantage.
"It was a good grind," said an exhausted Hend afterwards. "I felt like two out of 10 today and felt really tired, no energy. I knew it was going to be a tough day and very windy, so I'm very pleased."
Uihlein emerged as Hend's closest challenger after the American birdied the first, seventh and ninth before he answered his third bogey of the week at 12 with another birdie at the long 13th.
The world No 162 parred in to stay one ahead of Pieters and Pelle Edberg, whose bid for a maiden European Tour title in his 200th start floundered with four bogeys in five holes after the turn.
But the colourful Swede, who is attached to the club and spent much of the winter practising there, produced a positive response and birdied the final two holes to get back to 11 under par.
Scotland's Simon Yates lost ground on the leaders as he laboured to a 72 to close on nine under, while home favourite Thongchai Jaidee remains six shots adrift after the Thai veteran returned a 70.