Michael Campbell (Getty Images)
Michael Campbell bravely holed a ten foot clutch putt for par at the last to retain a share of the lead alongside Miguel Angel Jiménez after three rounds of the UBS Hong Kong Open in Fanling.
While Spaniard Jiménez, at 48 looking to become the oldest winner in European Tour history, ground out a bogey-free two under par 68, New Zealand’s Campbell mixed three birdies with two bogeys around Hong Kong Golf Club for a 69 as the pair tied on ten under par.
One clear overnight, former US Open Champion Campbell – returning to form after sliding out of the game’s top 1,000 - was initially caught by playing partner Zhang Lian-wei at the top of the leaderboard.
Having made a perfect start with a 15 foot birdie putt at the first, the 43 year old did well to rescue par from ten feet at the third after his drive bounced off a cart path into a stream; however Zhang followed a birdie two at the second with one from 12 feet there to join him in top spot.
A superb approach to the fourth brought Zhang another birdie and the outright lead, and when he got up and down from a greenside bunker at the fifth the 47 year old had needed just five putts in his opening five holes.
He needed three at the next, although so did Campbell, but Zhang bogeyed the next two as well as his playing partner birdied the seventh after a fine approach to eight feet.
Jiménez, seeking a hattrick of titles in this event after winning the 2005 and 2008 stagings, started with nine consecutive pars before a gain at the tenth.
He picked up another shot at the par five 13th, and that looked like it might give him the outright lead overnight as Campbell found a greenside bunker at the last and left his chip out well short of the hole.
But Campbell showed how far his confidence has come, holing the putt with aplomb as he seeks a first win for seven years.
“Today was sort of scrappy; apart from a couple of drives, it was pretty average really,” said Campbell.
“But once again, I just managed to grind out a score, which is very important with me not playing so well. I turned a 73 into a 69, which is always nice.
“I've still got a chance to win tomorrow, and that's what I wanted to do after three rounds - give myself an opportunity to go out there and hopefully lift the UBS Hong Kong Open trophy.
“Once again Miguel is playing great golf, and he's won this twice before and he's the man to beat.
“It's going to be a very interesting day tomorrow and it's going to be I think a lot of fun; it will be nice to be a part of it.”
Jiménez has won 11 of his 18 European Tour titles since turning 40, but the last of those was two years ago in Switzerland.
“I love to be in contention,” said The Ryder Cup Vice Captain. “It's been a long time since I've been there and I'm happy and I like this golf course.
“I like to be in contention on this golf course and you have to have patience and let everything happen. That's what's going to happen tomorrow, stay patient because anyone can win.”
Zhang came home in a one under 34 for a share of third nine under, while 19 year old Matteo Manassero burst onto a leaderboard dominated by veterans all week with a brilliant inward 30.
The Italian, whose victory at last week’s Barclays Singapore Open made him the first teenager to win three European Tour titles, wasted little time searching for a fourth as he followed a 15 foot eagle at the 13th with a hattrick of birdies; the resulting 64 taking him to nine under for the week.
“I played well throughout the whole round,” said The European Tour’s youngest winner.
“I had a really good practise yesterday and today I have to say, I struck the ball really well. I had plenty of chances, and on the back nine I really had some short putts for birdie and I made a few good ones.
“Last week really made me relax a lot on the golf course, and these three rounds and my position coming into this Sunday is certainly due to and what happened last week - I've got more freedom.”
Sweden’s Fredrik Andersson Hed holds sole possession of fifth on eight under after signing for a level par 70, while Anders Hansen and Peter Lawrie – the latter all-but certain of a DP World Tour Championship place after starting the week in the 60th and final qualifying spot – will still harbour title aspirations from three shots behind.
Andrew Dodt’s 68 did the Australian the world of good as he looks to climb the three places required on The Race to Dubai to retain his card.
Rhys Davies, currently holding the 119th and last card, followed his spectacular par save at the last yesterday – he had to chip out from behind a tree and get up and down from the fairway to make the cut – with a 69 that moved him up to 53rd.