KUALA LUMPUR • Pat Perez moved within range of a second PGA Tour title in a year by firing an eight-under 64 at the CIMB Classic to be four strokes clear heading into today's final round, as Justin Thomas' title defence looked all but over.
Overnight leader Perez, who broke a seven-year win drought at the OHL Classic in Mexico last November, was on a 21-under total of 195, four ahead of fellow American Xander Schauffele on a steamy day at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.
In search of his third Tour title, Perez scorched the course with six birdies on his back nine in a repeat of his second-round effort on Friday, and dropped only a solitary shot on the par-four 13th.
The burly American shrugged off the bogey with consecutive birdies from the 14th to the 16th and rolled in another on the last hole to cap another putting masterclass at the US$7 million (S$9.45 million) tournament co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour.
"These guys are so good and you can make so many birdies out there so fast and I know that," said Perez on the Asian Tour website (www.asiantour.com). "I didn't really hit it that great today but I putted good again. I'm just kind of getting the most out of my game right now.
"Of course everybody wants to win, it would be nice to do it, but I'm not going to put pressure on myself to win. I'm going to go out and try to hit a little better, make some putts and we'll see what happens.
"So if I can get another six (birdies) tomorrow, I might be tough to catch."
Young gun Schauffele kept in touch with two birdies in his last three holes to post a second consecutive 67, with South Korea's Kang Sung (65) a stroke further behind on 16 under.
World No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan soared up the leaderboard with a 63 to be six behind Perez, on 15 under with American Keegan Bradley (65).
The Japanese was on fire from the fourth, birdying five consecutive holes before finishing with a run of three birdies from the 16th.
"I knew the guys atop the leaderboard were going to extend their lead and I was hoping to get 12, 15 under at the start of the day," he said. "I might have left a couple out there.
"There were a couple of shorter putts that I wasn't able to convert, but all in all, I'm very happy with the round I played today.
"I'll just go home, get some rest and tee it up tomorrow and do my very best. You know, with the way Pat is playing, I don't know if he can be caught or not."
Thomas' hopes of making an early charge in his bid for a third consecutive title in Malaysia were dashed with a double-bogey on the par-five fifth. He finished the day 15 strokes adrift of Perez after shooting a 69.
Kim Meen Whee, the golf gold medallist at the 2010 Asian Games, chose the perfect time for a hole-in-one, his ace on the par-three 15th earning him a new BMW car from the sponsoring German auto maker. Kim was on two under after shooting 71.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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