Rookie Natthakritta Vongtaveelap expands lead in Thailand

Natthakritta Vongtaveelap expanded her lead at the Honda LPGA Thailand with an 8-under-par 64 on Saturday in the third round at Siam Country Club’s Pattaya Old Course in Chonburi.

The 20-year-old rookie started her day with an eagle at the par-5 first hole and ended it with three straight birdies to move to 20 under, four shots clear of fellow Thailand native Atthaya Thitikul. Thitikul also carded a 64 with nine birdies and one bogey to move into solo second place.

Celine Boutier of France (67 on Saturday) is alone in third place at 15 under. Lilia Vu (66) and Sweden’s Maja Stark (69) and Anna Nordqvist (67) are another shot back and tied for fourth.

Vongtaveelap’s bogey-free round gave her the 54-hole lead for the first time in her young career.

“(My round was) really good today. Perfect. Except tee shot first nine hole,” said Vongtaveelap, who hit 12 of 14 fairways.

“Today was very big, but I think tomorrow will bigger than today. (It will be) good to play with a friend. I haven’t played with (Atthaya) for a long time. It will be my second day with her. Glad to be together again.”

Thitikul began Saturday with three straight birdies. Her only blemish was a bogey at the par-3 16th hole, but she made up for it with a birdie at the last to move into position for her third LPGA Tour title.

“I think my mental (game) today is pretty good. I mean, like not thinking about much,” Thitikul said. “Also, I can perform really well with the ball-striking and when I hit it solid like today, so giving me a chance to make the birdie. Maybe I have more confidence today, which I don’t know why, because maybe I don’t think much on the course. You know, like my mind was blank, nothing much in my head. So maybe because of that.”

World No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand shot 67 on Saturday and sits in a four-way tie for seventh place, a group that includes Nelly Korda (69).

With a victory Sunday, Vongtaveelap would become the first sponsor invite to win an LPGA Tour event since Lydia Ko at the 2013 CP Women’s Open.

She would also become just the second Thai player to win the Honda LPGA Thailand, joining Ariya Jutanugarn (2021).

“It would mean a lot. Like it would mean a lot to me and to my team and to Thai fans I would say,” said Vongtaveelap, who turned pro in November.

“But obviously I don’t really thinking about, you know, like getting the trophy, because like it’s golf. It’s still 18 more holes to go, and then you like don’t know what’s going to happen in the front of you. Just do your best. If it’s your day, it’s your day.”

–Field Level Media

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