Dec 8 (Reuters) - Charl Schwartzel dropped his first bogey of the week on Saturday but it would probably require a spectacular final round meltdown to deny the South African his maiden Thailand Golf Championship title.
The ninth-hole bogey was the lone blot in Schwartzel’s penultimate round of four-under-par 68 as the 2011 Masters winner, last year’s runner-up here, raced five shots clear off Indian-born Swede Daniel Chopra at 18-under-par 198.
Chopra overcame a double bogey and battled to a 69 while local hope Thitiphun Chuayprakong scrambled to a 71 for third place further one shot back.
“It’s a game of patience and I just have to go out there to play. If it’s my time, it’s my time,” said Schwartzel, who is hoping to emulate Lee Westwood’s wire-to-wire victory last year.
Schwartzel dropped his first shot of the week after finding the fairway trap on the demanding ninth hole but recovered with a terrific eagle, firing a five-iron into the 12th hole and sinking the 12-foot putt. He then rolled in a 10-foot curler on 14.
“I‘m playing well. It’s been a good few weeks as I‘m pretty much in control of my golf swing. I can’t ask for more than that,” added the South African chasing his maiden Asian Tour victory.
Chopra dropped a double bogey on the par-five seventh hole to fall back but promised to give his best when he returns on Sunday.
“Obviously my goal is to go out and try to make it uncomfortable for Charl. Nobody wants to see him run away with it. I want to do my absolute best to make it close down the stretch,” said the two-times winner on the PGA Tour.
Sergio Garcia sank two closing birdies in his round of 68 to lie eight shots off lead, a gap he thought too big to bridge.
“He played great last year and is doing great again,” the Spaniard said of Schwartzel.
“He obviously likes the course. I like the course too but there are a couple of holes where I feel a little bit uncomfortable,” Garcia said.
Westwood and Masters champion Bubba Watson shot 70 and 71 respectively for tied seventh place on 209. (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Alison Wildey)