After a “steady rather than spectacular round”, Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin will carry a four-shot lead into the final day of the inaugural Qingdao Golf Open on the European Challenge Tour.
Following two days of awe-inspiring golf at the US$500,000 event, Maybin finally dropped his first shot at the 15th hole at Qingdao Huashan Golf and Resort in Qingdao, China.
But the man from Belfast, whose only birdie of the day came at the 11th hole, parred in to sign for a level par round of 72 which meant he stayed on 15 under par, four shots clear of the English duo of David Horsey and Gary Lockerbie – who shot a flawless round of 66 – and France’s Julien Quesne.
Maybin, currently 15th in the Rankings, has four top five finishes to his name but is yet to record a victory in his rookie season on the Challenge Tour. A maiden success here would not only provide the perfect present on his 28th birthday, but would also virtually guarantee him full playing privileges on next season’s European Tour.
He said: “My goal at the start of the season was to get into the top ten, and that hasn’t changed. One more decent round of golf tomorrow, and I’ll be one step nearer achieving that aim. I played some very steady golf again, but I just didn’t get the breaks and the putts didn’t drop. Hopefully they’ll drop for me tomorrow. I didn’t expect to be four clear – I would’ve thought someone would’ve shot really low and closed the gap, because there are plenty of birdie opportunities out there. But obviously I’m delighted they didn’t, and I’ll be even more delighted if I’m still on top come tomorrow. I could certainly do with a big cheque, because I’ve got a fairly hefty mortgage to cover!”
For his part Lockerbie, whose 66 was the joint lowest of the day, was pleased to have reined Maybin in.
He said: “I knew I’d have to shoot low to catch Gareth, or else he would’ve been out of sight. I set out with the intention of keeping myself in the ball game, and that’s what I’ve done. If I can put the pressure on early, hopefully he may come back to us – that’s all I can do.”
Horsey’s round of 69 featured an eagle three on the 13th hole, whilst Quesne collected three birdies in his round of 71.
The Scottish duo of Greig Hutcheon and Richie Ramsay are one shot further back on ten under par after both men carded rounds of 70.