Westwood on the hunt
Francesco Molinari leads the HSBC Champions going into the final round, but world no. 1 Lee Westwood is still right behind him.
Lee Westwood admitted overhauling Francesco Molinari to win the HSBC Champions will be a difficult task but is confident his game is in good shape to challenge the Italian.
The Ryder Cup team-mates both posted third-round 67s at Sheshan International GC in Shanghai to leave Molinari leading Westwood by a stroke on 14 under par going into Sunday’s showdown.
“It’s probably the best I’ve played all week, 67’s a good score,” said the world number one.
“I didn’t make a bogey so you can’t complain. It shows the quality of your golf when you only make two bogeys over 54 holes.
“I’m gradually shaking the rust off, today felt a lot more like normal and my leg feels as good as it’s felt all week.
“We’ve both played very well, Francesco’s a good player and will be tough to hunt down tomorrow but I’m in a decent position and I’ll go out with the same attitude of the first three days.
“But you don’t discount anybody coming from behind, because I know what it’s like. Three years ago, I was 10 behind with 10 holes to play and I got in a play-off.”
Molinari entered the third round one stroke ahead of Westwood but after both players carded birdies at the first, he fell into a tie with the Englishman following a bogey at the fourth.
The Italian hit back to regain the shot at the next and after the duo both claimed birdie fours at the
eighth, Molinari moved two clear with another at birdie at the 10th.
The 27-year-old gave it right back at the 12th before the 13th proved to be the pivotal hole of the day as Molinari holed his second shot – a seven iron from 160 yards – for a crucial eagle.
Westwood shrugged off his opponent’s fortune to complete his birdie and although he clawed another shot back at the 15th, both players birdied the last to set up a potentially dramatic final day in Shanghai.
Molinari admitted he got the rub of the green on the 13th but was not taking anything for granted with Westwood in close attendance.
“I think it was a really eventful round, and it was a bit of a roller coaster because I hit some great shots and some not so great shots,” he said.
“It was obviously good to get some shots back on the 13th. There was a bit of luck to hole it but it was also really a good shot that was aimed straight at the flag.
“My short game is improving and the eagle on 13 was a big bonus. I’m really happy to still be in front of Lee, he’s a great player and he played really well so I know it’s going to be really hard tomorrow.
“Finishing like that, it’s really good because it keeps me in the lead. One shot is pretty much nothing but it’s maybe better to be one shot ahead than one shot behind.”
The duo will be joined by a third member of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup team in the final group after Luke Donald posted a 67 to move into third on 10 under par.
Donald collected four birdies but was forced to scramble to make a number of good par saves throughout his round.
“I got a lot out of it today. I didn’t play my best but managed to grind out four birdies and minimise my mistakes, relying on the short game to keep the momentum going,” said the 32-year-old, who has only one bogey over 54 holes to his name.
“I need to come out firing, it’s going to take a lot to catch Lee and Francesco.”
Ross Fisher remains in touch on eight under par courtesy of a 69, the Englishman recovering from a dropped shot at the first to collect five birdies and just one more bogey.
He was joined by Ernie Els, and Richie Ramsay, who both signed for 71s.
Jaco Van Zyl lies seventh on seven-under while an amazing albatross two at the par-five 14th when he holed his second shot with a wood saw Padraig Harrington briefly lead the chase of the top two.
However, disappointing bogeys at the 16th and 18th checked the Irishman and he finished six under par alongside Noh Seung-yul after carding a third consecutive 70.
“I’ve never had an albatross before so obviously that was the shot of the day for me,” he said.
“I’m too far behind now but you never know as this golf course is tough enough that mistakes can be made and birdies can be made as well.”
Paul Casey climbed to five-under following a 67 but Tiger Woods saw his hopes of lifting the title tomorrow ended as a 73 left the former world number one three under par.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson fared even worse, a 76 leaving the American languishing on level par for the tournament.
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