BANGKOK - Australia's Marcus Fraser battled his way into a one-stroke lead after firing a two-under 70 in the third round of the US$1 million (S$1.3 million) Thailand Golf Championship at the Amata Spring Country Club on Saturday.
Fraser, on five-under for the tournament, staved off a determined challenge from India's Anirban Lahiri who shot up the leaderboard to move into second place with an impressive four-under 68.
A further shot back, on three-under, were the formidable trio of US Open champion Martin Kaymer, Ryder Cup star Lee Westwood and the exciting English player Tommy Fleetwood.
In sole sixth place was Jonathan Moore of the US, while England's Simon Griffiths moved into joint seventh with the lowest score of the day, a fine 66 that notched up an impressive seven birdies and one bogey.
After two days of blustery conditions, the gusting winds eased off a little in the afternoon.
But it was nonetheless another difficult day for the pack with a menacing rough continuing to take its toll on wayward drives.
Fraser gave an impressive performance after being out of competitive golf for most of the year with a wrist injury.
"I'm excited to be in this position," Fraser said. "I've played really well all three days and I just hope I can keep it up."
He said the one-stroke lead didn't leave much room for error going into the final day because of the quality of the players just behind him.
Fraser said the key to his success has been accurate driving on the punishing course.
"You just have to stay out of the rough," he said.
Lahiri, who sunk seven birdies against two bogeys, said he was generally pleased with his play, but was disappointed by two late bogeys which could have seen him jump into the lead.
"The front nine was really good, but I was disappointed at the way I finished," said the Indian, who is currently in second place in the Asian Tour's order of merit.
"I just need to play like I did today, but be a little more aggressive," he said on tactics for the final round.
Westwood, who won this event in 2011, said he felt he could have had a much better score than his even-par 72.
"I hit good drives on the par-fives, but did not take advantage of them," he admitted, adding that the key to beating the course was to be patient.
"If you hit wayward drives you have big problems," he said.
Fleetwood, on what he called a "weird day", experienced mixed fortunes on his way to a 73.
"I played well up to the 13th, but then I really struggled on the last few holes," said the 24 year-old.
"Still, I've got one more shot at winning my first tournament of the season. Anything can happen," he added.
Defending champion Sergio Garcia is in joint 10th place, along with Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, six shots behind the leader, which is probably too much to overhaul.
"I think I left three or four shots out there," the Spanish star, who finished with a 71, said. "Under these difficult conditions you can't do that."
Two-times Masters champion Bubba Watson continued to struggle, shooting 77 to slip well down the field.
"I didn't play very good. I made too many mistakes," the American star said.
There is all to play for in Sunday's final round as this event takes on extra importance this year, providing a pathway to the Open Championship at St Andrews next July.
The top four golfers in this event who have not already qualified for the major, will secure a place at the Open.