Yates turns up the heat on Bjorn

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The Independent Online

What Thomas Bjorn described as the hottest day he has ever experienced on a golf course was ideal for the local Thailand Order of Merit winner. It was another steamy and humid day at the Alpine club but while most of those from more wintry climes suffered again, the man who felt at home was Britain's Simon Yates.

Despite briefly losing his overnight lead, Bjorn finished the third round of the Johnnie Walker Classic one ahead of Miguel Angel Jimenez. But Yates, with a third successive 68, was only one further back, with Australia's Richard Green.

Yates was a Scottish international downhill skier as a teenager and won the British title on an artificial slope. But there was a paradox that thwarted the Glaswegian's Alpine ambitions. Yates does not actually like cold weather and could not be happier that the venue for this tournament is so inaptly named.

Having turned to golf the 33-year-old once tried to get his European Tour card but after visiting Thailand on holiday decided to try his luck on the Asian circuit.

He now lives in an apartment on the beach in Hua Hin, a coastal town two hours south of Bangkok, but this week he has been staying with his Thai girlfriend in the city. Last September Yates played in the Dunhill Links and led after the first day at St Andrews, finally finishing 12th. Though he was proud of playing in the land of his birth, he showed little interest in making regular return journeys. He admitted his ambitions were not exactly high. Playing golf in the morning and then having lunch on the beach near his apartment is a lifestyle he will give up only reluctantly.

Yates has decided that he will have a go at the US Qualifying School but a victory today would entitle him to join the European Tour immediately. "Sure, I'd take it up and play some tournaments," he said. A win might make Yates a surprise contender for the Ryder Cup team but, no doubt he would be satisfied with a first prize of £166,660.

Although he has finished third in a local event at the course, Yates has surprised himself in the manner he has snuck into contention this week. "Normally, I don't putt so well and my ball-striking is the key," he said. "I've been missing the fairways but making the putts this week."

On another day of low scoring, Bjorn returned only a 70 to get to 14 under par and lost the lead when he bogeyed the 13th and Jimenez birdied the 14th. But the Spaniard dropped a shot at the next while the Dane went in front again by finding the green in two at the 577-yard 17th with a huge drive and a five-wood which carried almost 250 yards.

"That was my best shot of the day but overall I was a bit scrappy and deserved what I scored," Bjorn said. "There are some quality players behind me and I missed a chance to put some distance between me and them."

Ian Poulter, who has been having regular massage on a muscle injury in his back, was three behind after a 67 and Ernie Els, the defending champion, was four behind after his putter failed to behave itself during a 69.

This is still very early in the season and Bjorn and Jimenez are playing for the first time. Bodies are still adapting to playing again, let alone new clubs, while Bjorn said he was not yet in "tournament rhythm". Jimenez, 40, produced five birdies in six holes but his philosophy is to take each day as it comes. Bjorn could not be more of a contrast. On Friday he had a spat with Colin Montgomerie, who had moved in the Dane's eye line.

There were no lingering effects for the Scot who returned a second successive 67 after an opening 73. Monty was actually at a loss to explain why Bjorn had been so upset. "I can't understand the whole thing at all," he said. "Usually there is an argument between two players but I don't have an argument with anybody."

Montgomerie was at nine under, the same score as Nick Faldo, who managed a 72 only after holing a long putt at the last. Seeking his first win for seven years, the 46-year-old hoped for a day on the greens as in his first round of 65 but the more he tries to talk himself into putting aggressively, the more he looks uncomfortably hunched over the ball.