Chonburi: A win at the Thailand Golf Championships could open a whole new world for Anirban Lahiri and he put himself up in a perfect position to clinch his third title of the season, reaching the second place after the penultimate round of the Asian Tour event here on Saturday.
Lahiri, playing in the fourth last group, was in a strong position at six-under after 15 holes, before bogeys on 16th and 18th set him back. He totalled four-under 212, one shot adrift of clubhouse leader Marcus Fraser, who edged ahead with a third round 70 at five-under 211.
A lot is at stake on the final day for Lahiri and others, as the top four -- not otherwise qualified -- will earn a berth into the 2015 British Open Championships at St. Andrews. Currently, Fraser, Lahiri, Scott Hend and Jonathan Moore are the top four and they need to stay in there.
Also Lahiri, who is second and trailing David Lipsky by a little over USD 133,000 in the Order of Merit race, could take the battle to the final event in Dubai with a win or even second place.
Lipsky, meanwhile slipped to tied 21st with a round of 74. A win could also move Lahiri into the Top-50 of the world opening a world of new opportunities.
The next best Indian was Arjun Atwal (72) six-over 222 at tied 40th place, while SSP Chowrasia (72) was tied 46th. Gaganjeet Bhullar (73) was tied 54th and Chiragh Kumar (76) was third 60th.
Former world number ones Martin Kaymer of Germany and England's Lee Westwood made the USD 1 million Thai showpiece an intriguing affair by sharing third place with overnight leader Tommy Fleetwood of England on 213.
Lahiri, who finished tied fourth at the Thailand Golf Championship last year, is confident of a better result after growing in confidence and maturity over the last 12 months which has seen him win two Asian Tour titles, increasing his tally to five wins on the region's premier Tour.
"It was a learning experience for me last year (playing in the last group). I didn't come close to playing my best golf but 12 months have passed since that round and I've done a lot of good things and played much better golf.
"I think I've grown in those 12 months. Come tomorrow, it will be an improved Anirban," he said.
Starting the day four shots back of Fleetwood, Lahiri made his swift ascent up the leaderboard by mixing five birdies against one bogey to turn in 32.
The 27-year-old then surged further ahead with birdies on 11 and 13 but had his good work undone with two late bogeys on 16 and 18, which came as a result from poor tee shots.
"I started out pretty good on the front nine. I made a lot of birdies and chipped and putted good. I'm just a little disappointed to throw it away because I didn't finish well. I'm happy to put myself in position," said Lahiri.
Despite holding a slim advantage at the Thailand Golf Championship, the 36-year-old Fraser, who is making his comeback from a wrist injury, knows he needs to be at the top of his game for his final 18 holes.
"It's only a one-shot lead at the moment, which is almost irrelevant with the calibre of players that are on the leaderboard. So it's just nice to be up there with them," said Fraser.
Kaymer, meanwhile, said he will have to dig deep and start draining those early birdie putts on the final day.
"It's very important to take care of the first six and seven holes because you can score there. You need to take advantage of the par fives and that's very important. If the putter is warm enough then I might have a chance," said the German.
Westwood remained optimistic of landing his second Thailand Golf Championship and believes the key to doing that is to stay patient.
"You need a lot of patience on this golf course. I don't think anyone will be running away with the title. If I played the way I played and maximise my opportunities then I think I can do well. I just need to fine tune my score," said the 2011 Thailand Golf Championship winner.