Bethpage, New York, May 19: Rising star Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand continued to exceed his own expectations as he signed for a three-under-par 67 to move into a share of second place following the penultimate round of the PGA Championship on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Jazz, a three-time Asian Tour winner, fired five birdies against two bogeys to trail leader Brooks Koepka by seven shots with a three-day total of five-under-par 205 at the Bethpage Black course.
Jazz, who thought he would struggle to break 80 after seeing the course on Monday, surprised himself by capping three rounds no worse than par in his debut appearance at the PGA Championship, which is also his second Major tournament.
“It was raining when I arrived here on Monday and it was raining on Tuesday as well. The course was playing so tough because the rough was so long. I was having a nightmare. How am I going to play this golf course? I’m not going to break 80. But this (to move into a share of second place) has exceeded my expectations already,” said Jazz.
Jazz, placed 72nd on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and second on the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity Standings, got off to a fast start with three birdies in his first six holes before curling in a tricky 13-foot birdie putt on the 10th.
Despite dropping two shots on 14 and 17, Jazz recovered brilliantly with a closing birdie on the par-four 18th, where he found the green in two before rolling in a nine-footer.
“This is my first time on the East Coast, and it’s next level. It’s so different. I love it. People keep shouting love you. They love me here,” added Jazz, who got into contention with Jack Miller, a frozen foods manager at a local grocery store, on his bag.
Jazz became the youngest player to make the halfway cut on the Asian Tour when he was still an amateur at the age of 14. He lost his Asian Tour card for the first time in his career after finishing outside of top-60 on the Order of Merit in 2016.
The young Thai, however, went for a two-week stint as a monk when he turned 21 years old that December and returned to claim his first Asian Tour victory in Bangladesh two months later. Jazz has added two more victories since and made his Major debut at The Open last July.
Jazz, who will play alongside American Luke List in the second last group on Sunday, is expected to break into the top-50 in the world if he finishes fourth or better at the PGA Championship. A solo fifth place finish will get him close.