A ROUND at Wack Wack's brutal East course by Chan Kim that featured everything from a birdie to a quadruple bogey and just about every strange twist and turn ended with the biggest surprise of all.
He's in the lead in the ICTSI Philippine Open with one round to go.
"Very surprised, actually," the genial Korean-American pro said on Saturday after signing for a one-over par 73 that was good enough to give him a one-shot lead at the end of the third round. "I definitely didn't think that five-under would be leading the tournament."
The 24-year-old top qualifier from last year's Asian Tour Q-School now stands one round away from his first Asian Tour title, his 211 total putting him just ahead of overnight leader Marcus Both of Australia, Korean Wang Jeung Hun, and Jay Bayron who raised hopes of a home victory after a 69.
The top, however, was the last place Kim had expected to find himself after a round that was marred by a double bogey on the third hole, another bogey on the short par-4 10th and a 7 on the dreaded par-3 8th hole - the same hole where he hit quadruple bogey last year to miss the cut by one at the Solaire Open.
"I thought I would be two or three shots back," he said.
But he was in the lead because almost all of the top contenders had their own misadventures to tell on a day when the winds kicked up to make the East course a lot trickier than it already is.
Both, who made no bogeys in a second-round 66, had five on this day - including three of the last four - on the way to a 76. Wang had a share of the lead until he double-bogeyed the last hole, settling for a 72. Bayron went as low as six-under for the tournament until he double-bogeyed the par-3 16th.
But if it is any consolation, Bayron closed with a 69 to become the best placed Filipino going to the final round of this US$300,000 Asian Tour-sanctioned event presented by the MVP Sports Foundation and PLDT.
"It is a bit frustrating to waste a couple of shots in the last few holes but I was not the only one making a couple of bogeys coming in," said Both, a two-time winner on tour. "This course can really do it to you. It is a common thing and everyone will say the same thing."
Just a little over 7,000 yards long, the the par-72 East course is averaging almost two shots harder through three rounds.
Aside from Bayron, another local hope in Tony Lascuna gave himself a shot at the home Open on Sunday. The current Order of Merit leader of the local tour fired a 69 and shot five shots behind at 214 in the company of Thai Arnond Vongvanij (68) and Aussie Nathan Holman (72).
Bangladesh's Siddikur Rahman, the first-day co-leader, heads a big group at 215 after a 76 that ended badly when his approach on No. 18 found a bongavilla bush way left of the green. He took a penalty drop and ended up with a double bogey when his pitch clipped the tree.
Migs Tabuena and amateur Rupert Zaragoza were still in it as well after a 72 and 76, respectively, put them at one-over 217 while Angelo Que was another shot back after a 72.