Irish off the pace as Li assumes control in Turkey

Chinese golfer overtakes Justin Rose in third round of Turkish Airlines Open

Haotong Li of China plays a shot during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Haotong Li of China plays a shot during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

 

Haotong Li, the 23-year-old Chinese golfer, didn’t need his putter at all on consecutive holes: a chip-in birdie on the ninth and an audacious hole-out from the rough on the 10th for an eagle gave him a head-start on other contenders to the extent his third round 63 for a 17-under-par 54-holes total of 196 put him in control of his own destiny.

The 6-feet 1-inch powerhouse brings a three strokes lead into Sunday’s final round of the Turkish Airlines Open and is in line for a career-best €1 million payday.

Li - winner of the 2016 China Open and this season’s Dubai Desert Classic - produced a career low round, highlighted by that eagle two on the Par 4 10th hole, to ensure a three shot cushion over defending champion Justin Rose and Frenchman Alex Levy. His 173 yards approach with an eight-under found the green and used the undulations of the green to somehow find a way to the hole.

For the trio of Irish players in the tournament, the upward momentum didn’t really materialise. Paul Dunne shot a 69 to be tied-12th on 204 (nine-under), Shane Lowry got off to a fast start but couldn’t maintain it as his 67 moved him to tied-18th on 205 (eight-under), while Pádraig Harrington overcame a tough start (three bogeys in his opening eight holes) to recover to sign for a 71 to be tied-28th on 206 (seven-under).

Dunne, the 25-year-old Greystones player, felt his play - if not his scoring - was more in tune with his opening day’s 64 which had given him the first round lead.

“I thought I played okay, played very nicely and hit a lot of good shots. It could have been a lot better really. I played today like I did the first day, just didn’t make the putts or get the odd break where you hit a really nice shot and it goes to a foot instead of six feet and you miss it. Obviously the score was average enough but how I played bodes well,” said Dunne.

Lowry, for his part, was much improved off the tee. In the opening two rounds, he had a propensity to veer left off the tee but this was eradicated in a third round which produced five birdies and one bogey but which actually promised even more. “My iron play has been lovely for the past three days. But off the tee the first few days I struggled big time and I really felt anxious out there on the tee. Today was a lot better,” said Lowry, who has targeted a top-10 finish to close out. “Winning is obviously out of reach,” he said.

When Li captured the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this season, he held off Rory McIlroy down the stretch. This time he will have Rose - who would return to world number one with a victory - as one of his chief pursuers. “I just want to play my best and beat him,” said Li of the challenge facing him.

Rose suffered a bogey finish to his round after pulling his drive into the hazard, while Levy’s bogey-free 66 moved the Frenchman into contention. Levy showed his ingenuity late on in his round when he was required to play a recovery shot from the trees out backwards towards the fairway and managed to keep his card without a bogey for a second straight round.

Third round scores in the Turkish Airlines Open (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 71)

196 Haotong Li (Chn) 66 67 63 

199 Justin Rose 65 65 69, Alexander Levy (Fra) 67 66 66 

200 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 65 67 68 

201 Sam Horsfield 66 67 68, Danny Willett 67 65 69 

202 Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 71 65 66, Tommy Fleetwood 68 66 68 

203 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 70 67 66, Tom Lewis 69 63 71 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 66 70 67 

204 Jason Scrivener (Aus) 67 67 70, Paul Dunne 64 71 69 Martin Kaymer (Ger) 66 69 69, Adrian Otaegui (Spa) 68 65 71 Darren Fichardt (Rsa) 68 68 68, Thomas Detry (Bel) 66 70 68 

205 Joost Luiten (Ned) 70 66 69, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 69 66 70 Chris Paisley 67 69 69, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 68 69 68 Matthias Schwab (Aut) 69 69 67, Julian Suri (USA) 67 68 70 Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin) 68 70 67, Dean Burmester (Rsa) 72 65 68 Shane Lowry 68 70 67, Russell Knox 70 66 69 

206 Andy Sullivan 72 68 66, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 75 69 62 Padraig Harrington 65 70 71 

207 Andrew Johnston 71 70 66, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 70 65 72 Andrea Pavan (Ita) 68 75 64, Alexander null Bjork (Swe) 73 69 65 Wade Ormsby (Aus) 70 68 69, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) 72 64 71 

208 Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 70 70 68, Matt Wallace 67 70 71 Ryan Fox (Nzl) 69 71 68, Ashun Wu (Chn) 66 71 71 

209 Lucas Herbert (Aus) 73 68 68, Lee Slattery 70 70 69 Renato Paratore (Ita) 73 66 70 

210 Robert Rock 73 68 69, Jorge null Campillo (Spa) 72 69 69 Mikko Korhonen (Fin) 74 71 65, Gavin Green (Mal) 67 70 73 

211 Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 72 69 70, Ashley Chesters 72 69 70 Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 67 71 73, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 74 69 68 Aaron Rai 71 71 69 

212 Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 70 72 70, Soren Kjeldsen (Den) 71 68 73 Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 72 71 69, Stephen Gallacher 70 71 71 George Coetzee (Rsa) 70 70 72, Lee Westwood 66 72 74 

213 Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 73 71 69, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 73 69 71 Jordan Smith 74 71 68, Jens Dantorp (Swe) 72 71 70 

214 Scott Hend (Aus) 73 74 67, Maximilian Kieffer (Ger) 70 74 70 Richard McEvoy 75 71 68, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 74 70 70 

215 Ross Fisher 72 75 68, Jeunghun Wang (Kor) 70 71 74 Nacho Elvira (Spa) 71 72 72, Alvaro Quiros (Spa) 69 73 73 

216 Paul Waring 75 71 70, Matthew Southgate 78 70 68 Benjamin Hebert (Fra) 71 69 76, Oliver Fisher 71 74 71 219 Ali Altuntas (Tur) 74 69 76, Julien Guerrier (Fra) 77 69 73 

228 (a) Taner Yamac (Tur) 78 79 71 

238 (a) Leon Acikalin (Tur) 74 79 85
 

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