The Thai legend sank six birdies en route to an outward 29 before shooting three more birdies against a lone bogey to end the penultimate round one stroke back of leader, David Branshaw who leads on 11-under following a 68. Rob Labritz is tied for second with Thongchai at 10-under.
Korea’s Charlie Wi carded a 66 which featured six birdies against a lone bogey for tied 10th position, giving himself an opportunity to secure his PGA TOUR Champions card. At the end of four rounds, the top-5 finishers will be fully exempt into open, full-field events for PGA TOUR Champions in the 2022 season. In addition, players finishing sixth through 30th will be eligible to compete in open qualifiers on PGA TOUR Champions in 2022.
Thongchai’s round was the best of the week so far as he looks to quickly regain his PGA TOUR Champions card. He finished runner-up in the 2019 Qualifying School to earn his Champions card but missed a large portion of the 2020-21 Season due to COVID-19 restrictions which kept him grounded in Thailand.
“I just need to keep the ball in play tomorrow,” said Thongchai, who is an eight-time DP World Tour winner. “My putting is giving me lots of confidence. If tomorrow is goes anything like today, it will be good.”
The former Asian No. 1 finished runner-up at Q-School Final Stage in 2019 and made two starts on PGA TOUR Champions in 2020 before traveling back to Thailand due to the COVID pandemic. After spending nearly 14 months in Thailand, he returned to the U.S., and made 10 starts on PGA TOUR Champions in 2021. He earned two top-10s and finished 64th in the 2020-21 Charles Schwab Cup standings.
He said a sore back earlier in the week curtailed his performance. “First two rounds, I had a bit of pain in my back and I tried to recover and did a lot of work to get my body better. Today, I was different. I hit the ball very well and putted well too. Only had 10 putts on my front nine and back nine I had a few up and downs. This has given me my confidence back. Eight under is a good score for me and I’m happy,” said Thongchai.
“In 2020, I flew back to Thailand and was stuck there for 14 months. I came back out this year to try and play more, and then I had to Monday qualify almost every week. Tomorrow, I’ll play my own game, try to keep the ball in play. I’ll try to aim for another score like today.”
Labritz, who shared the lead after the first round, shot 4-under 67 yesterday, including an eagle on the par-5 12th. A club professional at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York, Labritz has played in eight PGA Championships, earning low club professional honors in 2010 and 2019.
“This is what I’ve worked for my entire life,” Labritz said. “Every time I’m out hitting golf balls, I’m thinking of this. I’m thinking of the shots I need to hit to make sure this happens. It’s super important, but it’s super fun, too. I’m doing what I love, and there’s nothing better.”
Tom Gillis, who was co-leader after each of the first two rounds, is in fourth place at 9-under entering the final day. Alan Morin (8-under) rounds out the top five, while Skip Kendall (7-under) and Mark Mielke (6-under) are in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Tee times for today’s final round will run from 8:00 – 10:12 a.m. (ET) off the Nos. 1 and 10 tees at TPC Tampa Bay.