Sweden’s Christopher Hanell lived up to his word at the Hong Kong Golf Club when he moved into a one shot lead after the third round of the Omega Hong Kong Open, the first counting event towards the 2004 Volvo Order of Merit.
After regaining his playing privileges for The European Tour at the Qualifying School Finals in Spain last month, the 30 year old admitted that he had been working harder than ever at his game and embarked on the season with the promise that: “You will see a different Chris this year.”
He proved that to be the case and gave himself the perfect platform to go on and claim his maiden title with an excellent third round 65 at the Fanling venue for an eight under par total of 202, to move one shot clear of nearest challengers, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand.
"I am very happy," said Hanell. "There were no blemishes on the card and it feels great to be up on the leaderboard - I feel great right now."
Going into the third round it was rookie Englishman Richard McEvoy and Volvo Masters Andalucia champion Fredrik Jacobson who held the top two positions but with neither able to make further forward momentum, Hanell grabbed his chance to move into pole position.
Three birdies on the outward half saw him to the turn in figures of three under par 31 while further birdies at the tenth and 17th saw him home in 34 to take a one shot lead into the final day’s play in the co-sanctioned event with the Asian PGA Tour.
In truth, Hanell should have been joined at the head of affairs by both his closest challengers but both Harrington and Marksaeng dropped shots at the testing 410 yard final hole, with its flag tucked behind the greenside bunker.
For Harrington, who opened the 2003 season with victory in Asia in the BMW Asian Open, it was the end to a roller-coaster day at the office, his bogey at the 18th one of three to sit alongside the four birdies and one eagle at the 529 yard 12th, in his 67 for a seven under par total of 203.
Alongside the Irishman, Marksaeng kept pace exactly with matching rounds of 67-69-67, the Thai golfer’s bogey at the last, his second of the day after having dropped a shot at the first as well, but he more than recovered with four birdies in the remaining 16 holes.
One shot further behind on six under par 204 lies a group of four players including the two overnight pacesetters, McEvoy and Jacobson, alongside English left-hander Chris Gane and American Rob Rashell, who both posted third round 67s.
The third round was not so profitable for Jacobson however, who had to settle for a 71 and McEvoy whose 74 represented his first over par round of the week.
The 24 year old Englishman, who won the Qualifying School Finals last month, took a three shot lead into the third round thanks largely to his spectacular opening 62, but could not quite repeat the formula in the third round, opening with two successive bogeys.
He went on to drop three further shots, at the eighth, 14th and 18th, his only birdie of the day coming at the longest hole on the course, the 551 yard par five third.
Alongside McEvoy, Jacobson, who finished fourth on the Volvo Order of Merit in 2003 after three wins, was many people’s pick for the title after moving into contention with a second round 65 but he slipped back slightly with a third round 71, caused largely by a disappointing start.
The 29 year old double bogeyed the second before shedding another shot at the fourth, but he showed his battling qualities to regain the shots lost with birdies at the ninth, 11th and 13th. However, like many of his fellow competitors, he also dropped a shot at the last.