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Friday, 19 March 2010
Ben Mason celebrated his 25th birthday by regaining top spot after three rounds of the Sameer Kenya Open in Nairobi. The former England international from Leeds posted a 69 for 13-under-par 200, which leaves him a shot ahead of another Englishman, Lee James, and two clear of Zimbabwe's Sean Farrell and Titch Moore from South Africa.

Mason and James began the day sharing the lead and they were paired together in the final match. But while Mason compiled a solid round with just two birdies, James found five birdies and four bogeys in a see-saw 70.

"I played very steadily but I missed a few chances from 10 to 15 feet on five greens," said Mason. "I also started to struggle with the driver but made up for it with some excellent long iron play."

It leaves Mason with every chance of securing his maiden Challenge Tour victory but he will be in uncharted waters. "I've never played in the last match in the final round on the Challenge Tour before," added Mason. "The only time I’ve experienced it was in a Euro Tour event. But I'll prepare the same as I have for every round and whatever happens I'll learn from the experience."

However, he gained a huge slice of luck on the long 18th when he blocked his second shot with a long iron into the trees, the ball rebounding back on to the fairway from where he was able to salvage his par.

He'll face tough opposition not only from James but also from Farrell and Moore, the latter seeking to make it a hat-trick of South African victories in Kenya.

James would still be alongside Mason but he missed from 10 feet for eagle at the last.

Farrell, who finished 45th on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa a couple of weeks ago, had four birdies in his 67, three coming at par fives, but he missed a complete set with only a par five at the 18th. However, he might have been on top if he had putted half well, needing 34 strokes on the greens.

But he is still right in the hunt and will relish the experience after going into the final round in fourth place in Kenya two years ago.

Moore also failed to birdie the 18th as he signed for 68 and 11-under-par 202.

Simon Hurd, another Leeds-based English player, shot 67 with six birdies to climb to fifth place, while another Englishman, Simon Wakefield returned 65, joint best card of the day with six birdies, to move into joint sixth on 204 alongside Gary Birch Jnr and Jacob Okello, the leading Kenyan.

Lee Slattery returned the other 65 with six birdies to climb to joint ninth alongside fellow Englishmen Benn Barham and Sandeep Grewal, Graham Rankin, the top Scot, and three more South Africans, Hennie Otto, Jaco van Zyl, and Josef Fourie.

Otto began the day in third place just a shot out of the lead but he slipped to a 73 after starting with a double-bogey six.

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