Westwood on a mission in China
Golf:Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods may have angered officials by not participating in the HSBC Champions, but Lee Westwood more than made up for their absence on a thrilling third day at Mission Hill. The no-shows of the sport’s two biggest names were not well received by sponsors or organisers alike, but Westwood and a strong supporting cast did their best to prove there is a depth of talent on the tour.The world number four’s scintillating 11-under-par 61 helped him take a share of the lead, while overnight pacesetter Louis Oosthuizen added a late touch of drama when he missed a chance to go back out in front on the last.
Beyond the lead duo, who are locked together on 18 under, Brandt Snedeker went within inches of achieving golf’s magical 59 when he missed a 15-footer for birdie on the final hole, with the American instead having to be satisfied with a course-record 60 — a shot better off than Westwood.
But although Snedeker shot the lowest, Westwood was the day’s biggest winner. The 39-year-old had an unblemished third round of 11 birdies and and soared up the leaderboard from 12th to joint first, with he and Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, three shots clear of nearest challenger Phil Mickelson.
The Ryder Cup star set his stall out by birdying the first three holes and he did not look back. His putting was in good fettle — he landed a tricky 10-footer on the ninth to emphasise such — and he looked in control all the way round.
Oosthuizen had led by five going into today, but a sluggish display with the putter cost him dear. He had several near misses on his way around — showing signs of decline when he slid one wide from five feet — and things were summed up by his penultimate shot of the day when a 15-footer on the last would have given him a one-shot lead heading into tomorrow. He missed by an inch.
The same fate befell Snedeker, who looked set to go sub-60 when he approached the 18th, only to pull up just short.
Earlier in the day, Ernie Els had briefly snagged a share of the lead on his way back to the clubhouse, but undid his hard work when he found the water on the 15th, taking a double bogey. He finished with a 69 and sleeps on 14 under, along with Bill Haas and Ian Poulter.
Snedeker is a shot further back but seemingly the man with the momentum to mount a last-day assault. His overnight mood could have been even better too.
“I was disappointed not to shoot 59,” he said. “In a career you might only get a couple of chances to do it. 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.”
Ireland’s Shane Lowry left himself with too much to do going into the final round as he could only manage a level par score of 72. Seven adrift of the leaders, the Offaly man will rue a number of missed chances as he slipped back into a tie for 15th place.