Raphaël Jacquelin takes a one stroke lead into the final round of the BMW Asian Open at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club looking for the second wire-to-wire victory of his career.
The Frenchman shot a two under par 70 to move to 11 under par 205 with Australian Scott Hend, joint runner-up last week, hot on his heels after a five under par 67.
Swede Joakim Bäckström, Dane Søren Kjeldsen and Scot Simon Yates, who equalled the course record with an eight under par 64, lie two shots back. Colin Montgomerie’s putter went cold on him as he posted a 69 to lie alongside last week’s winner, Markus Brier, and another Dane in Søren Hansen on eight under par, just three off the lead while World Number Five Ernie Els forced his way into the frame with a 69 to lie just five strokes back.
But Jacquelin has been the man to catch all week and kept his nose in front going into what is forecast to be a tough final day with heavy rain predicted. The forecast has prompted organisers to bring the final day tee-times forward to give the tournament every chance of finishing on Sunday.
“I am feeling pretty good,” said Jacquelin. “It was a bit more difficult today as I didn’t putt very well but I played the par fives well, especially the back nine and birdied the 15th and 17th . I think we will be up early tomorrow but the good news is that I will catch my flight.”
Jacquelin’s previous victory in the 2005 Open de Madrid saw him take a seven stroke lead into the final round. This week he faces a completely different challenge as he looks to convert the form which has brought a second and joint sixth finish in the last two events into a much-deserved victory.
“I shot 64 three times in a row so had a seven shot lead going into the final round from Darren Clarke and Phillipe Lima,” said Jacquelin. “I was pretty confident going into the final round. But that is a different story and I have only one shot on Scott and two on the guys on nine under. It is completely different and I just have to play better than the other guys. That’s all.”
Hend will be looking to make amends for last week where he set out one adrift of Brier going into the final round before the Austrian pulled away.
“I'm as close as I've been for a long time,” said Hend after his 67. “But there are a lot of other guys out there that I've got to beat and one of them is myself. If I can manage to control myself and win the battle with myself, then I will have a chance that it could happen. There's 18 holes to go and it's a long way.”
Kjeldsen birdied the last two holes for a four under par 68 to also lie on nine under par, along with Bäckström, who bounced back from bogeys on the tenth and 12th holes with an eagle three on the next on his way to a 68.
Yates, who plays on the Asian Tour from his base in Thailand, blitzed the front nine with six birdies before adding a couple more on the way home to match the course record set by Thai Somkiat Srisanga at the Tomson club in 2004.
Scot Yates, a former downhill skier who has taken up motor racing in the last couple of years, looked on course for a record round before dropping a shot at the last, but was still delighted with a round that started as well as he could have hoped.
"Birdie, birdie, birdie, at three under after three, you feel pretty good," Yates, known to his peers at "the Wee Man" told reporters. "Just a shame about the last, one putt too many."
Yates’ better-known compatriot Colin Montgomerie could come to a series of missed opportunities on his way to a 69, which left him trailing Jacquelin by three in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour, Asian Tour and China Golf Association.
“I missed five putts today and if I don’t win tomorrow it is because of that,” was all he would say.
World Number Five Ernie Els however suddenly found his range with three birdies on the last four holes to lift himself into contention for a final-round shoot-out.
“The front nine again I got frustrated with myself,” admitted Els. “I had a three putt and all two putts for eight holes. I tapped in for birdie on the ninth from about a foot so I was a little frustrated. It showed a little in my game on the back nine. I didn’t hit the ball as well as the front nine but made a lot more putts. I was just trying to somehow get myself more under par and made some good putts on the 15th, 16th and 17th for birdies and I have got half a chance now.”
Players will set out for the final round at 6.40am in three balls off two tees with the leaders taking to the course at 8.30am local time.