HONG KONG (Reuters) – Unheralded Australian Sam Brazel shot a three-under 67 to grab a share of the lead with playing partner Rafa Cabrera Bello after the third round of the Hong Kong Open at Fanling on Saturday.
Ranked 480th in the world, Brazel soared up the leaderboard with three birdies on the back nine as Spaniard Cabrera Bello, who had led by three strokes overnight, endured a roller-coaster even par round at the European Tour co-sanctioned event.
The pair were locked on an 11-under total of 199, two strokes ahead of Englishman Tommy Fleetwood heading into the final round.
U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett battled through an errant back nine littered with four bogeys to finish the day six strokes adrift of the leaders after shooting a 71.
Playing in the final group of the day, Cabrera Bello and Brazel strode down the par-four 18th fairway tied after both found the green safely with their second shots.
Cabrera Bello fell just short on a long birdie attempt and tapped in for a par, and Brazel did the same with an easier 15-foot uphill putt.
“There’s been a lot of positives and a lot of negatives,” said Cabrera Bello, chasing his first win on the tour in four years.
“The good thing is I am still in it and I’m still leading with Sam.”
Cabrera Bello had played near-flawless golf in the opening days but struggled to hit a fairway on Saturday and surrendered the lead with a double-bogey on the par-four 14th.
Shanking his tee-shot into trees on the right, the Spaniard tried to bash his way through to the green rather than take a drop and the shot ricocheted behind him.
After tapping in for six, he put the setback behind him by draining a monster birdie putt on the next hole for birdie to grab back a share of the lead.
Brazel put a 111-yard approach to within three feet of the pin on the 16th for a birdie to break clear but Cabrera Bello reeled him back in on the next hole, rolling in a birdie from 10 feet.
Justin Rose’s hopes of sustaining a weekend challenge evaporated quickly, with the former U.S. Open winner 10 strokes adrift after shooting a 70.
Fellow Englishman Ian Poulter was a further two adrift after a 71.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)