VOLVO CHINA OPEN
BRIER MAKES MOVE
Hend hot on the heels of Austrian
Markus Brier of Austria fired a strong four-under-par 67 for the third-round lead at the Volvo China Open, with Australia's Scott Hend lurking a stroke behind yesterday.
Brier blasted seven birdies, including three over his last three holes, against three bogeys for a six-under-par 207 total, and holds a one-stroke lead over Hend, who shot a steady 70 at the Shanghai Silport Golf Club.
With the relentless wind being the talking point for the third straight day, South African Andrew McLardy was unfazed as he enjoyed an equally impressive 67 for lone third place at the US$2-million event, co-sanctioned by the Asian and European tours.
Tied for fourth were Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who carded his third straight 70, and South African Richard Sterne, who shot a 69.
Overnight leader Raphael Jacquelin of France had a slow day, with four bogeys for a 75, also in joint-fourth position.
Thai star Prom Meesawat carded a 68, a six-stroke improvement from the previous round for an-over-par 214 to share 16th place with Australia's Adam Blyth, who stumbled with a 76. Prom, who won the SK Telecom Open last season on the Asian Tour, was the highest placed Thai in the tournament.
Thongchai Jaidee reeled off straight birdies in the last three holes to finish on even par for a three-over-216 and a share of 26th place.
Prayad Marksaeng hit a 72 to take joint 36th on 217. Chapchai Nirat struggled to a 74 to lie at 48th place on 200 - one stroke better than Thammanoon Srirot, who hit a poor 76 for tied 54th.
Brier, who turned pro in 1995, was slow off the mark, with a dropped shot on the first, deemed to be the toughest hole at the Volvo China Open this week. He bounced back with two birdies on the front nine before stumbling to a second bogey on the 10th hole. He was inching his way to the top with two more birdies against a lone bogey, before firing home birdies on the last three holes for a one-stroke lead.
"I am very pleased with my finish. The wind was in a different direction again, which made it awkward. The first hole was tough and I made my usual bogey there, but after that I didn't hit many bad shots. A few drives went off line and the rough is thick out there, but I hit good iron shots and holed a few putts," said Brier, who has one European Tour title under his belt.
"A win here would be very nice and it would be my first win abroad. I won twice on the Challenge Tour, so I am still going for my first win abroad," added Brier, who won the Ba-Ca Golf Open on the Challenge Tour in 2002 and 2004, and had a third win at the same event, which had moved up to the European Tour, in 2006. All three events were played at Fontana Golf Club, his home course in Vienna.
Hend, who is featuring in his maiden season on the Asian Tour, where he is presently 34th on the UBS Order of Merit, was pleased with his round, which included five birdies against four bogeys. He believes his new approach to the final round will see him through to a maiden triumph.
"If I start hitting it well, who knows what can happen. Until then, I will try to make birdies," said Hend, who was in a similar position at the Pakistan Open, where he finished runner-up in January.
"I've learnt that you can't be perfect every time. I've been working hard to concentrate on the process rather than the outcome. Today was a good step, as it shows that what I'm doing is working, instead of my getting frustrated. I've learnt this since the Pakistan Open.
"I was rushing my shots in Pakistan, but I hope to take it a step at a time here and climb my way to the top," added Hend, who is a former US PGA Tour player.
McLardy, 33, enjoyed a good day, which included an eagle at the par-five eighth, and will be determined to strike it rich before his planned break next month.
"My wife [Toni] is due in five weeks. I hope to finish well and make some money as I'll be taking two months off after the birth of my baby girl," said McLardy, who finished second at the 2007 Joburg Open in January, which was his best result on the European Tour.