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Bhullar sizzles with 65, Digvijay slips but stays in hunt

Chiangmai: Gaganjeet Bhullar made the great charge with a sizzling seven-under 65, the best card of the day, but Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng fired a majestic six-under-par 66 to open up a commanding five-shot lead over the field at the end of the third day in the inaugural USD 750,000 Chiangmai Golf Classic on Saturday.

Bhullar`s 65 took him to 11-under 205, while Digvijay Singh, lying tied second overnight slipped to tie fourth after a battling round of two-under 70, that put him at 12-under after a finishing bogey on par-5 18th. Digvijay, however, is still the best placed Indian among the five left after the cut.

Shiv Kapur (68), Anirban Lahiri (68) and Himmat Rai (70) were all tied 26th at eight-under in the low-scoring event.

Adding to the drama was Thongchai Jaidee, who needs a win to qualify for the Masters in April.

Thongchai fired a 69 to move to 13-under, alongside Australia`s Matthew Stieger, but they are five shots behind Prayad.

Digvijay is tied fourth with Marcus Both (65), Anton Haig (66), Kiradech Aphinabarnrat (66), Scott Hend (67) and Y E Yang (67).

"I didn`t have the best start. I hit it close on the second and fourth holes but I wasn`t reading the greens correctly today. I just didn`t get the speed of the greens right. Then I hit it really good. Hit it to about six feet on the 10th hole and it was a `given` birdie on 11," Digvijay said.

"I made a great par on 17 when I hit it over the green and into thick rough but managed to get it out to about two feet. Overall it was a good experience playing with Thongchai Jaidee. The last time I played with him was as an amateur at the 1995 Nomura Cup in New Zealand.

"My goal remains the same. My plan of action remains the same. I`m really enjoying myself this week. This is a really beautiful golf course I think it is one of the best that I`ve played in Asia. If the win comes along then it will be an icing on the cake," Digvijay added.

Bhullar, who plays attacking golf, said, "I played well. I hit the ball really good and close. I had many opportunities. Anyway it was a moving day. There are still another 18 holes. I`m very excited to play tomorrow, especially with the way my game is shaping up.

"I can definitely expect another low one coming. I`ve been striking the ball well but today was one of those days where I felt better on the greens. As a result the score was better than the last two days. I want to take this tempo into the last two days."

The 47-year-old Prayad, who led by two overnight, went out with a flawless 31 at the Alpine Golf Resort-Chiangmai before shooting three more birdies against two bogeys to put some daylight between him and the chasing pack with a 18-under-par 198 total.

Thongchai, a three-time Asian Tour number one, battled to a 69 for tied second place but conceded he needed a miracle to topple the runaway leader for a win, which he needs to break into the world`s top-50 and earn a place at the Masters Tournament in two weeks` time.

Four-time Major champion Ernie Els of South Africa fired his lowest round of the season with a 66 to move up to tied 15th place, eight shots behind the leader.

In-form Prayad, who has won three times at home this year including his National Open a fortnight ago, is chasing his seventh Asian Tour title but his first in nearly six years on the region`s premier Tour, which is celebrating its milestone 10th season this year.

A chip-in eagle on seven proved to be the highlight of his day as he held on to the lead for the third straight day.