South Africa’s Branden Grace will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the China Open after he shot a sizzling eight-under 64 at Binhai Lake near Beijing on Saturday.
The 23-year-old South African moved to 18-under for the tournament, three clear of defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts (66) of Belgium while Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti (64) is a shot further back.
Marcus Fraser (67) is the only Australian with a realistic chance of winning the tournament, sitting at 13-under with four other players, while Scott Strange (69) is eight shots off the pace.
On a day of light winds and low scoring, Grace had started the third round one shot off the lead but picked up four shots in three holes that included a 15-foot eagle putt at the sixth hole.
Grace is looking for his third victory on the European Tour in 2012 having already won the Johannesburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions tournaments in South Africa in January.
Having beaten major winners Retief Goosen and Ernie Els to win The Champions on a very similar course at Fancourt in South Africa, Grace’s confidence is high.
“I can draw from experience,” said Grace, who had seven birdies in his round and only dropped one shot when he three-putted the 14th green.
“I am feeling really positive after getting my first two wins early in the year and just wanting to keep on pushing on from there. The difference all this year has been that I have been holing more putts.
“But this course here in China is very similar to Fancourt. It is long has the same links feeling about it and I am getting the same feelings.”
Colsaerts, attempting to defend the title he won last year and playing alongside Grace, started slowly but four birdies in the back nine allowed him to sign for a six-under 66.
Alexander Noren of Sweden shot the lowest score of the day, a nine-under 63, to join Fraser, South Africa’s George Coetzee (64), Spain’s Ignacio Garrido (67) and overnight co-leader Jean Baptiste Gonnet (70) of France in equal fourth.
The other overnight leader, Gary Boyd of England, started his third round by dropping two shots in three holes and a 71 put him six shots adrift of Grace.