England’s Richard Finch shot a storming 66 yesterday to lead Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano by a stroke going into the final round of the China Open.
Finch, who won the Irish and New Zealand Opens last year, rebounded from a bogey at the sixth with six birdies in a row and picked up another on the 16th for the outright lead.
Fernandez-Gonzalez posted a 68 to lie seven-under for the tournament on 209.
Australian Ashley Hall equaled the course-record 65 set by New Zealander Mark Brown earlier in the day to be five-under for a share of third with 2007 champion Markus Brier of Austria.
Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat, Australian Scott Strange and Englishmen David Dixon and Simon Dyson are in a group tied for fifth four off the pace in the European Tour and OneAsia Tour co-sanctioned event.
“After I hit a bad shot on six, I hoped things would change for the better and they sure did. After a slow start for six holes, I got on a really good run,” the 31-year-old Finch said. “I’ve led going into the final round in New Zealand, so hopefully that will help me. However, there’s still a long way to go. You can get a run going, but you don’t have to do much wrong on this course to make mistakes. I’ll try my best and see what happens.”
Finch has resumed a long-term rivalry with Fernandez-Castano, whom he has known since the pair’s amateur days.
“We had a good laugh on the way round today, talking about some old stories,” Finch said. “We know each other well, as we played a lot as amateurs and turned pro at a similar time. I’m looking forward to playing another round with him.”
Fernandez-Castano shot an eagle, five birdies and three bogeys in his round, but needs to outscore his friend today if he’s to win his second major title in China after winning the 2006 Asian Open in Shanghai.
“We have a good friendship and also a good rivalry,” he said.
Hall chipped in to eagle the 18th and post his 65 just an hour after Brown set the course record, pipping the 66 set by Englishman Oliver Wilson and Australian Scott Strange in last year’s event.