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Friday, 19 March 2010

(Reuters) - Englishman Richard Finch shot an eight under par 64 to open up a three shot lead at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open to put himself in the pole position to win his first European Tour title.

The 30 year old followed up his 65 from the second round with nine birdies and a single bogey to reach the clubhouse at 14 under par 202, extending his lead with birdies at the last two holes at The Hills Golf Club in Queenstown.

"I hit the fairways, hit it as near to the pin on the green as I could then tried to give myself a chance to drop the putts in," Finch said.

"I was looking at the leaderboard on the way round at about the 13th or 14th and thought that if I could press on over the last few holes and make a few birdies I could open up a bit of a lead."

Australian Steven Bowditch, who led by a single stroke after the second round, shot a fighting 71 to finish the day in second place in the event co-sanctioned by The European Tour and the PGA Tour of Australasia.

He was in danger of slipping even further behind after making a triple-bogey on the par five eighth hole but regained his composure to collect four birdies in a row on the back nine.

Australian Peter Fowler fired an incredible ten under par 62 to storm up the leaderboard into third place at ten under just a day after he shot 75.

Fowler, who won the New Zealand Open 14 years ago, collected eight birdies and an eagle to smash The Hills course-record by three strokes, matching the lowest score in the tournament's history at any course.

"I needed a good score after starting so far behind the leaders," Fowler said.

New Zealand's 1963 Open Champion Bob Charles continued his amazing run with a tidy round of 71, matching his age, a day after he beat it by three shots with a 68 to become the oldest player to make the cut on any of the world’s major tours.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1FINCH, RichardENG18-14
T2BOWDITCH, StevenAUS18-11
T2SHEEHAN, PaulAUS18-11
T4NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-10
T4MILLAR, MatthewAUS18-10
T4PARRY, CraigAUS18-10
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