Thailand native Natthakritta Vongtaveelap kept the hot streak going on Moving Day at the Honda LPGA Thailand. The 20-year-old LPGA Tour rookie fired an 8-under, 64 on Saturday at the Siam Country Club Pattaya Old Course to post a three-day total of -20 and give herself a four-shot lead. Vongtaveelap got off to a fast start, immediately making an eagle on the par-5, 1st, but cooled slightly, following up her opening eagle with four consecutive pars. She then carded back-to-back birdies on holes 6 and 7 and notched another on the par-5, 10th. Five more pars gave way to three closing birdies on Nos. 16, 17 and 18, and now Vongtaveelap will sleep on the 54-hole lead for the first time in her career in her first LPGA Tour start as championship Sunday looms large.
“(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.”
Four back of the lead at -16 sits two-time LPGA Tour winner Atthaya Thitikul. The Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 4 matched Vongtaveelap’s 8-under, 64 which propelled her up the leaderboard and into solo second. Thitikul came out swinging on day three after pair of ho-hum rounds on Thursday and Friday. She birdied her first three holes in a row and grabbed two more on holes 5 and 7 to turn in 31. The 20-year-old did more of the same on the back, recording a pair of birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 as well as one on the par-4, 13th. She made a single bogey on hole 16 but cleaned it up with a birdie on the last to post at -16 overall and give herself a shot at a third LPGA Tour title.
“I think my mental (game) today is pretty good. I mean, like not thinking about much,” said Thitikul, who celebrated a birthday on Monday, February 20th. “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.”
Frenchwoman Celine Boutier is one back of Thitikul in solo third at -15 through 54 holes. Boutier fired a steady third-round, 5-under, 67, making six birdies and one bogey, the first of her week, and will be looking for her first win since the 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer on Sunday. Rounding out the top five are 2021 Epson Tour graduate Lilia Vu, major champion Anna Nordqvist and 2022 LPGA Tour winner Maja Stark. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko sits in a tie for fourth with three other players, most notably 8-time LPGA Tour winner Nelly Korda.
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