Thai ace one shot off the pace as unheralded Swede Hanell grabs sole possession of the lead Can former Thai three-wheel taxi driver Prayad Marksaeng stop the European juggernaut and fly the Asian PGA Tour flag proudly by winning the Omega Hong Kong Open today? This is the US$113,000 question - the winner's purse - as a host of big and unknown names were poised to carry on Europe's recent domination of the Hong Kong Open, among them leader Christopher Hanell of Sweden and Ryder Cup star Padraig Harrington of Ireland. The oldest professional sporting event in Hong Kong has been the preserve of European golfers since Swede Patrik Sjoland won in 1999. The last Asian to win was Kang Wook-soon of South Korea who won the year before. Can Prayad give Asian golf a shot in the arm and win one of the most prestigious events on the Asian PGA Tour, which is also the opening leg of the 2004 European Tour? Prayad is currently one shot behind leader Hanell who, perhaps surprisingly, found himself in sole possession of the lead after a number of players, including Prayad himself and Harrington, bogeyed the last hole of a tantalising third round at the Hong Kong Golf Club yesterday. Hanell, who finished third in the 1999 British Masters, shot a five-under-par 65 to total eight-under 202 after 54 holes and take a one-shot lead into the final round. 'It feels great to be up on the leaderboard. I hope I can finish it off now,' said the 30-year-old Hanell, who completed an error-free round. The same could not be said for Harrington and Prayad, who are one shot behind Hanell. Playing in the same flight, both Harrington and Prayad shot 67s and mirrored each other's efforts almost to the tee by three-putting the par-four 18th hole to drop a valuable shot. 'I just lost my concentration. It was a long enough day and I suppose I forgot it was downhill,' said Harrington who put too much power on his first putt which over-shot the hole. 'I missed a number of other opportunities all day, but still I'm nicely placed.' Prayad, who last won a title back in 2000, is a rags-to-riches story. Hailing from the coastal resort town of Hua Hin, he learned about golf when walking to school daily through a course. His first club was made from bamboo at the end of which he tied a piece of scrap metal. Before turning pro in 1991, he used to ride his three-wheeler looking for fares. But that is all in the past. Today he has won more than US$500,000 in prize money. The tricycle has been exchanged for a Mercedes Benz. He now has a house right next to the King of Thailand's summer palace in Hua Hin. On his shoulders lie the hopes of Asian golf today for he is the best-placed Asian to thwart the European charge. The next best placed Asian is hometown hero Derek Fung, who lies six strokes adrift. 'I will have to start the final round better than I have the other rounds. I have not parred the first hole for the last two rounds,' said Prayad, who will be in the last flight today alongside Hanell and Harrington. England's Richard McEvoy, who led in the first two rounds, slipped to two shots behind leader Hanell after carding a disappointing three-over-par 74 yesterday. McEvoy began disastrously when he dropped shots on the first two holes of the day. He made four bogeys in all and only struck gold at the third hole when he collected his day's only birdie. 'I just didn't get anything going today. I struggled to hit the fairways off the tee and I didn't hit many greens either. I just lost it a bit today. But hopefully I will feel good and refreshed tomorrow,' said the 24-year-old McEvoy. Tied with McEvoy in fourth place, two shots behind the pace, is defending champion Fredrik Jacobson. The Swede struggled to a one-over 71 to total six-under 204. 'It wasn't a good day. I started and finished bad. But it is still wide open and I still have a chance,' said Jacobson, hoping to become only the second person to win back-to-back Hong Kong Open titles. The last person to do so was Taiwan's Hsieh Yung-yo in 1963 and 1964. Other dangermen include Denmark's Thomas Bjorn, three shots of the pace, and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, one shot further adrift. 'It will be fun in the final round,' said leader Hanell. It certainly will be as a large number of players are in with a chance. But realistically, Prayad is carrying Asia's hopes.