April 22, 2017: Austria Number One Bernd Wiesberger stayed on course for his fourth European Tour title by carding a third-round 69 for a three-shot lead at the US$2.8 million Shenzhen International in China.

 

Starting the round four clear, the World Number 43 moved to 15-under, three ahead of South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli (68) and four clear of Englishman Ross Fisher (69), Korean-American David Lipsky (67) and South African duo George Coetzee (67) and Dean Burmester (68).


American star Bubba Watson – who woke up at 3.30am to finish his second round – shot a 70 at Genzon Golf Club to share seventh place at 10-under with Chinese teenager William Liu Yanwei (66) and French duo Alexander Levy (64) and Gregory Bourdy (70).

 

After half the field completed their second rounds in the morning, Wiesberger, 31, started the third round at 12-under, four clear of six players including Watson, Bourdy, Fisher and Frittelli.

 

Bourdy, playing in the penultimate group with Watson and Fisher, birdied the par-five second and aced the 185-yard third to move within one of Wiesberger, who started with four pars.

Although Bourdy bogeyed the fifth, one of the European Tour’s toughest holes, he birdied six to draw level with Wiesberger – who also bogeyed five – and then seven to lead outright at 12-under.

However, the 6-foot 3-inch Wiesberger caught up with a birdie at seven, regained the lead when Bourdy bogeyed eight, led by two after a birdie at nine and then stayed clear with birdies at 13, 15 and 17, offset by a bogey at 14.

 

Wiesberger said: “I thought guys were going to make birdies on two and I didn’t and then Gregory holed out on three, so I guessed he was one behind. It didn’t change anything for me. I didn’t hit good shots early on, but I hit two very solid shots into seven to finally make my first birdie and then freed up a little bit.

 

“I played decent after that. I didn’t quite get my wedges as close as I wanted to, but played technically nice. I didn’t go for things, even down the stretch. All in all, I felt I was in control for the last 12 holes, which I played pretty nicely.”

 

Wiesberger, who won his last European Tour title in 2015, is now in prime position for a third pro title in Asia, having won his first European Tour title at the 2012 Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea and the Asian Tour’s Indonesian Masters in 2013.

 

“I’m definitely looking forward to going out there in the lead tomorrow,” said Wiesberger, who this has tied for fourth at January’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in the UAE and finished third at February’s Maybank Championship in Malaysia.

 

“We're going to have good fun. I’ll definitely try to get in the rhythm early on and hit good shots and take advantage of holes you can birdie, like I did the first two days. I’m definitely going to try to do that again tomorrow.”

 

Frittelli, 26, is looking for his first European Tour win in his rookie season after finishing eighth on last year’s Challenge Tour money list, although he came close in December 2015 when he lost a three-way playoff at the Australian PGA Championship.

 

Fisher and Bourdy have won five and four European Tour titles respectively, and Watson – the first-round leader after a 66 – is again expected to draw huge crowds as he concludes his third appearance in the event.

 

“I just didn’t have enough close birdie putts. I let a couple of holes get away from me and had a couple of tired swings coming down the stretch,” said Watson, whose nine PGA TOUR titles include Masters Tournament wins in 2012 and 2014.

 

“I’ve got to shoot something low, a little eight-under like Alex [Levy] did. I’ve got to try to make some putts. And I’m just happy I won’t have to go out early again!”

 

Liu, 19, was China’s hero as he put himself in contention to better his best-ever European Tour of 52nd in the first Shenzhen International two years ago.


“This is the best I’ve played in a European Tour event by far. I’ve shot better scores in my life, but I’m really pleased with how I played today,” Liu said.

 

“I’m obviously a little bit nervous, but the fact I know the course well helps so I just stick to my game plan and be patient out there. I was able to do that today and it worked out well for me.

 

“Tomorrow will obviously be a big day, but I can just try my best like I have for the last three days. I’ll just see how it goes. There were quite a few people out there following me today, which was good to see, and I think there may be more tomorrow.”

 

Levy, who hit “one of the best shots of my life” for an eagle at 17, will also be one to watch after shooting a course-record 62 on his way to winning the 2014 Volvo China Open at Genzon and sharing the lead last year with three holes left.

 

Liu and 16-year-old amateur Lin Yuxin (five-under) were among 10 Chinese to make the cut. This week’s 156-man field featured 54 Chinese players, matching the European Tour record set by the inaugural Shenzhen International two years ago.

 

On the same day, two players, Finland Number One Mikko Korhonen and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy each aced a hole-in-one at the 16th hole and 3rd hole respectively.

 

Korhonen, 36, holed out with his four-iron and won a BYD Tang SUV, one of the world’s best-selling plug-in hybrids, which is parked at the back of the tee and is worth RMB299,900 (US$43,500).

 

Yi Zemin, PR Manager for BYD – which has Leonardo DiCaprio as a brand ambassador – presented Korhonen with the key to his new car in an impromptu ceremony at the 16th tee that attracted about 40 media and tournament staff.

 

The tournament is played over Genzon’s A Course, where holes two and three play around a small lake, while the final six holes play alongside or over Dragon Lake in the centre of the 36-hole complex. Holes 15, 16 and 17 involve an island in the middle of the large lake, with the par-five 17th requiring trips across two bridges.

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