Anirban Lahiri made another upward move, from 21st to 16th, but reckoned that he could have been way better as he had no less than eight birdies in the third round of the PGA-sanctioned CIMB Classic on Saturday. (Anirban Lahiri Tied 21st After Round 2 at CIMB Classic)
But Lahiri, who tops the Asian Order of Merit, also dropped three bogeys to return a card of five-under 67 and is now 12-under 204 and eight shots behind the leader Justin Thomas (67) and Brendan Steele (66).
Lahiri did make a lot of birdies as planned, including four in the last five holes, but bogeys on fourth, 12th and 17th meant he gave away too many shots at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club's West course. Lahiri's rounds have been 70, 67 and 67.
But still a good final round can see Lahiri make a good start to his PGA Tour 2016 campaign in his first appearance as a full member.
Lahiri's compatriot SSP Chawrasia shot 74 that included three bogeys in a row from 12th to 14th and a sole birdie on second after starting from the back nine. He is now tied 74th.
The 28-year-old Lahiri, winner of the Malaysian Open at this same course, and the Hero Indian Open this calendar year, said, "I would have liked to be in a better position but having started weak (with a 70), I think this is not a bad place to be. I feel like I'm playing well so hopefully I can get a really deep round. My energy level is surprisingly good."
On his play recently, he said, "I've been playing good but I haven't made birdies in bunches. It's just been bogey-free or one bogey and three, four or five birdies. But it was nice to make eight birdies today. You have to be in a birdie mood on this golf course, otherwise you're not going to catch anyone."
"I don't think a 67 is going to gain much ground. I'm going to have to make as many or more birdies tomorrow and try and keep a clean card," added the Indian, a seven-time Asian Tour winner and playing this week as a PGA TOUR member as well.
While Malaysia is known to be energy sapping, Lahiri said, "Yeah (energy levels), have been good. It's surprisingly good. Malaysia has been good. It's not been as bad as it can be. It's nice. Go have a shower, go get some needles in my leg and release some tired muscles."
Lahiri holds a massive 621,000 US Dollars lead over second-ranked Scott Hend of Australia, who shot level par 72 to trail Lahiri by a further five shots. Andrew Dodt of Australia, ranked third on the Merit list, is further down the leaderboard after a 74 on Saturday, which gives Lahiri the upper hand in the Merit race.
At the top, Steele fought into a share of the third round lead with Thomas following a birdie slugfest on Saturday. Steele, chasing a second PGA TOUR victory, produced a blemish free six-under-par 66 to earn the 54-hole lead with halfway leader Thomas, who birdied his closing two holes for a 67.
American Kevin Na, the Asian Tour's Rookie of the Year in 2002 and now firmly established on the PGA TOUR, launched himself into the title mix for a third straight week with a nine-birdie round of 64 that left him one back of the co-leaders.
Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama, ranked 15th in the world, shot a 68 to lie joint fourth with James Hahn (64), Brian Harman (66) and Spencer Levin (68) in the CIMB Classic, which is jointly sanctioned by the PGA TOUR and Asian Tour.
Such has been the low scoring on the West course this week that Steele and Thomas established a new 54-hole tournament record with their staggering 20-under-par 196 aggregate.