Maarten Lafeber will take a one stroke lead into the final round of the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan after a third round 71 kept his nose in front of Padraig Harrington and Trevor Immelman.
Lafeber’s four shot overnight lead was cut to the narrowest of margins on a breezy day at the Ta Shee Golf and Country Club as both Harrington and Immelman posted rounds of 68 to move to 12 under par 204.
Lafeber, chasing his maiden European Tour title raced clear with opening rounds of 66 and picked up three birdies with only two dropped shots, the second disappointingly on the 17th, to remain at the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m happy to still be in the lead and in position for tomorrow which was my goal. It was difficult to play this afternoon as it was blowing quite hard. I let them come close which wasn’t necessary,” said Lafeber.
“I missed a short one (for par) on 17 and basically, I just couldn’t get the ball into the hole. I had plenty of chances for birdies and made two unnecessary bogeys … I shouldn’t have finished on 13-under but that’s the way it is,” added the Dutchman.
But after coming desperately close to winning on several occasions last season, most recently when he shared the lead at the Trophée Lancôme in France into the final round, Lafeber is determined to achieve his career breakthrough.
“I have to play really good to win it. That is what I’m going to try and do and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been in contention in Madrid and Paris recently and a lot of times I’ve been close to the leaders. You feel it’s your time but you can’t force it. The thing is that I’m good enough to win the tournament.
“Trevor hasn’t won before and is dying to win and Padraig is top ten in the world and he’s won before. I think from the whole field, they are the two toughest competitors that I have behind me. It’s going to be a very difficult day and all I can do is to give 100 percent and battle hard. If it’s enough, it’s enough. If not, I’ll come back another time,” said Lafeber.
Harrington, looking to launch his 2003 campaign with a victory after finishing runner-up in the 2002 Volvo Order of Merit, fired six birdies and two dropped shots to lie alongside South African Trevor Immelman, hot on the heels of Lafeber.
“Maarten has been in contention, it seems, in every tournament for the past two months in Europe, and in some of them I actually played with him. He’s a bit like myself and one of these days it’s going to click and he’ll learn and he’ll start winning lots of tournaments” said Harrington. “He played quite well today, but unfortunately he’s going to have another tough day tomorrow. Trevor and I are only one shot behind and there are others close by,” said Harrington, winner of the dunhill links championship last month.
Immelman took advantage of the par fives with three birdies on four for them and said that his aggressive play helped launch him into contention again. “I played really well. I’ve been in contention a few times this year and I felt like I wanted to go out there today and give it a go.
“In the times that I’ve been in contention this year, I probably tried not to play badly instead of trying to play well. That’s why I finished second three times. I went out there, played aggressive and shot a good score. I’m going to be aggressive again in the final round as you can’t wait for others to make mistakes,” said Immelman, who finished 14th on the 2002 Volvo Order of Merit.
American Andrew Pitts recorded an impressive, bogey-free third round of 69 to lie fourth on 206, ten under par, and two shots further behind is Welshman Ian Woosnam, who fired a four under par round of 68 for a three round total of 208.
Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee, runner-up to Colin Montgomerie last week in China, is alongside Woosnam on eight under, with Sweden's Henrik Nystrom, Scotland's Simon Yates, Denmark's Soren Hansen and South Africa's James Kingston all tied on seven under.