Henrik Bjornstad blazed to a new course record of ten-under-par 61 to claim a one shot lead over Australian Adam Scott after the third round of the Omega Hong Kong Open.
The young Norwegian amassed a magnificent eight birdies and an eagle at Hong Kong Golf Club’s Composite Course to set up an intriguing battle of the young guns in tomorrow’s final day.
Scott, 21, suffered a three-putt bogey on the 18th green as he shot a 66 while double Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain shot a bogey-free 64 to loom as a major threat.
Olazabal, winner of the Novotel Perrier Open de France this year, and England’s Mark Foster, winner of the Challenge Tour Rankings, are two strokes behind the new leader.
Bjornstad, who has a total of 17-under 196, is the man to watch as he flirted with the magical 59 when he toured the front nine in 28, shooting five birdies and an eagle. When the 22 year old dipped to ten under at the 12th, a really hot round looked within striking reach but his putter cooled down soon after.
“Everything just went my way. I hit almost every shot good. After the 12th, I was really thinking about a 59 as all I needed was two more birdies. But I missed a three-foot birdie on the 13th and missed from ten feet at the 14th.
“Those were my only two mistakes. If I had made the putts, it would have been real good. But I can’t complain about a 61,” said Bjornstad, who shot just one more birdie in his last seven holes.
The 18th hole blemish did not frustrate Scott, winner of the alfred dunhill championship in South Africa in January. He had started his day with an opening bogey following a wayward drive but nailed seven birdies in between the dropped shots.
“It was perfect … I moved myself into contention. It was a good job done. I played much better than yesterday and hopefully, I can keep it going. It would have been nice to have tied for the lead but a lot of stuff can happen out there (tomorrow).
“Hopefully, Henrik doesn’t have a 61 again. You never know … it could just be a 68.I feel like I’m due a good last round having been in contention a lot this year. But I need to be patient. That is what I have learnt this year. If you play well and keep hitting the greens, the putts will fall eventually,” said Scott.
Olazabal, second in the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan last week, struck his irons crisply for five birdies and an eagle.
“I’m obviously happy with my round. I shot seven under and took 30 putts, so I played solid and made some putts. Tomorrow is going to be another day like this and you need to score really low to have a chance of winning.
“A lot of players will have a chance and I’m pretty sure a few will be shooting low. It’s going to be a matter of making putts and that is going to be a tough task for me. The grains break one way, then another way and finally you really don’t know where to hit it. It is tough to get the pace right. That has been my problem,” said Olazabal.
Swedish duo Carl Pettersson and Anders Forsbrand, who shot identical 68s, and Welshman Mark Pilkington, who carded a superb 62, are joint fifth, three off the pace on 199.
The Omega Hong Kong Open is jointly sanctioned by The European Tour and Asian PGA run-Davidoff Tour. While it is the season-ending event in Asia, the event forms the second leg of The 2002 European Tour International Schedule.
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, meanwhile, virtually sealed the Davidoff Tour Order of Merit title when his chief rival Charlie Wi stumbled to 78th place after a 74. Wi needs a top-five finish here and Thongchai to be out of the equation to have a chance of overhauling the Thai, who is tied 26th after a 67.
“I think I should be okay for the merit title now. I’ve been lucky as I played well in the past six months,” said Thongchai.