SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) - Lee Westwood clambered to the top of the HSBC-WGC Champions Tournament leaderboard with an 11-under-par third round at Mission Hills on Saturday but the Englishman’s flawless 61 was still just the second best score of the day.
Brandt Snedeker carded a course record 60, and came within a whisker of the first 59 on the European Tour, to sit on a combined 13 under and five shots behind joint leaders Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen.
Bogey-free Westwood said he enjoyed his late-year trips to Asia.
”It’s generally pretty hot here and it was quite steamy out there today,“ he added. ”But obviously the conditions here suit me with the grasses and the style of golf courses.
“And I have always been a middle-to-the-end-of year good player.”
Then he added with a smile: “Other than that, the reason for playing well ... must be the grain or rice or something like that.”
After being heavily criticized for his poor putting in the Majors this year, Westwood said he was pleased to have holed a couple of 20-foot birdie putts, an element that had been missing from his game most.
Oosthuizen had set a blistering pace in the first two rounds with scores of 65 and 63 but could not sustain it on Saturday, when he shot a two-under 70.
”It was frustrating,“ said the South African. ”Early on I didn’t play really well and then I started to find a little bit of form on the back nine but just didn’t make any putts.
“I missed two six footers for birdie and one of them I didn’t hit a good putt. It was frustrating seeing all the other low ones out there.”
Compatriot Ernie Els looks set to challenge for his second big win of the year following his British Open triumph at Royal Lytham, the ‘Big Easy’ was five under for the front nine but dropped back after a double bogey at the par five 15th when he pulled his second shot into water.
But the round of the day belonged to Snedeker, who just missed the hole on the 18th green with a putt of 20 feet which, had it dropped, would have been the first 59 in any tournament sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.
“I was disappointed not to shoot 59, because in a career you might only get a couple of chances to do it,” he said.
”When I made eagle at the 15th the idea of shooting 59 came to me but I knew I needed to make birdie at the last three holes.
”I rattled off a couple at 16 and 17 and then played a great shot from a fairway bunker to set up the chance at the last.
“I hit a good putt but I misread it a little bit. I was disappointed but I knew it had put me back in the tournament.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford