KUALA LUMPUR: Anirban Lahiri wielded a hot putter to surge four strokes clear after the third round of the CIMB Classic on Saturday to close in on his first US PGA Tour title at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
India's Lahiri shot a seven-under 65 and took advantage of the near-collapse of defending champion Justin Thomas to go into Sunday's final round with a total of 19-under 197.
American Thomas, who held a two-shot lead after two rounds, had been four-over after 12 holes before firing five straight birdies from the 14th hole to salvage a 71 and lie four shots behind on 201, level with Scotland's Russell Knox (67).
First round co-leader Derek Fathauer carded a 68 to move into a tie for fourth on 202 with fellow American James Hahn (69) and Japan's Hideyuki Matsuyama, who briefly held a share of the lead after four birdies in his opening five holes.
Americans Scott Piercy and Keegan Bradley, the 2011 US PGA Championship winner, followed in seventh and eighth on 203 and 204 respectively.
Lahiri, playing in just his second season on the PGA Tour, responded to carding a double-bogey on the par-four 12th hole with four birdies on the last five holes, including the 18th, where he had posted a bogey and double bogey on Thursday and Friday.
"It's very satisfying. To finish the way I did is definitely a big positive," said Lahiri, who is seeking to become the first India-born player to win a PGA Tour event since Arjun Atwal in 2010.
"I was determined today to keep my focus right through the 18 holes, and I'm happy I managed to do that. Just going to try and do the same tomorrow.
"I just told myself that I got rid of my double-bogey early in the round today and just tried to focus on what I needed to do. I feel like I'm hitting it good with my irons, my wedges and I'm putting it good," he said.
Thomas had a nightmare after making the turn at even-par when he played the 10th through 12th holes in four-over, with a double-bogey on the 11th.
"It was really just terrible golf for the first 13 holes. To be four-over par out here, it was a very weird feeling," said Thomas, whose win here last year remains his only PGA Tour success.
"It was great to have that finish. I gave myself a chance, and I know I wouldn't have done that in some of the years past. I feel like that showed a lot of me and I hope that I can ride the momentum into tomorrow," he said.
Malaysian Gavin Greene, playing alongside four-time major winner Ernie Els, had his worst round of the week after a three-over 75 left him in joint-70th position on one-over 217.
"Three-over is not very good on this course," said Green, 22. "I'm not happy with it at all and I'm pretty disappointed. Putting is a little better, but it's nowhere close to what I'm capable of doing.
"Ernie is always nice. He said, you know, it's just a start. It's only just a start. So it's okay," he added.