Japan’s Kazuki Higa continued to be the top favourite to lift the trophy at the $60,000 BTI Open as he produced a three-under-par 69 at the Kurmitola Golf Club in Dhaka Thursday to maintain his lead for the third day in succession.
Higa, the wire-to-wire leader since round one, totaled 15-under-par 201 at the end of round three to stay ahead of the rest by three shots.
Bangladesh’s Mohammad Zamal Hossain Mollah (68), playing at his home course, fired a third successive 68 to emerge as the strongest challenger to Higa at 12-under-par 204 at the event tri-sanctioned by the Asian Development Tour, Professional Golf Tour of India and Bangladesh Professional Golfers Association.
Higa’s (62-70-69) lead may have whittled down from five shots on day one to three shots in round three, but he looked in total control Thursday sinking four birdies and dropping a lone bogey which was only his second error of the tournament.
Higa, ahead by four at the start of the day, was quick off the blocks as he sank a 20-feet birdie putt on the second and followed that up with another birdie on the next hole. However, the 23-year-old from Okinawa, secured his best birdie of the day on the closing 18th where he recovered well from the trees before making a 10 feet conversion.
Higa, now the prime contender for the title, said, “I felt a little nervous to begin with but the early birdies helped me settle down. I felt no pressure thereafter and thoroughly enjoyed my round.
“The birdie on the last hole was a real confidence-booster. I was in trouble on the 18th having found the trees with my tee shot. A bogey looked likely there. But I’m proud that I made a great recovery and managed to extract a birdie there.
“I will now look to repeat the same stuff in the final round. In round four, my plan will be to mix caution with aggression by grabbing my opportunities and at the same time not trying to do anything fancy.”
Local favourite Mollah (68-68-68) is likely to provide the stiffest challenge to the leader on the final day. Zamal, who has won both his PGTI titles at the KGC, mixed six birdies with two bogeys during his round of 68 to improve his position from overnight tied second to sole second.
Zamal, who conceded a bogey on the second, came roaring back with five birdies between the fourth and the 13th. He had a hat-trick of birdies from the fourth to the sixth.
A quietly confident Zamal said, “I played some solid golf. The only disappointment was missing a few short putts from a range of three feet.
“I’ll look to treat the last round like any other round I’ve played here and try and put my best foot forward. I have the advantage of local knowledge and have won at the KGC on multiple occasions in the past which also counts. The crowd support will be another factor that could help me raise my game in round four.
“If I play well a round of six to seven under is very much on the cards which would in turn give me a shot at my first ever international title.”
Argentina’s Miguel Carballo (68) and Sweden’s Malcolm Kokoconski (69) shared third place at 10-under-par 206.
The Bangladeshi duo of Mohammad Shakhawat Hossain Sohel and Mohammad Sajib Ali shared fifth place at seven-under-par 209 along with India’s Aman Raj, Sri Lankan Anura Rohana and American Josh Salah. Raj was the highest-placed Indian.
Bangladesh’s numero uno and two-time Asian Tour winner Mohammad Siddikur Rahman was the fourth golfer from the host country in the top-10. Siddikur was placed tied 10th at six-under-par 210 along with India’s M Dharma and American John Catlin.