Lee Westwood battled to hold on to his position as golf’s world No. 1 yesterday as a thunderstorm forced an early halt to the third round of the Ballantine’s Championship.
The Englishman was four shots off joint leaders Miguel Angel Jimenez and Brett Rumford of Australia when the storm sent the players running for shelter at the Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul.
Westwood lies tied 11th on six-under and faces an uphill struggle to secure the top-five finish he needs to stop Germany’s Martin Kaymer overtaking him in the world rankings after just a week at No. 1.
After carding a four-under second-round 68 on Friday, Westwood sank birdies at the first two holes, but was unable to capitalize on the good start, making par on the next 10 holes.
He narrowly missed a birdie putt on the par-four 11th and will return to a difficult position on the 13th when play resumes on today after skewing his tee shot.
Cigar-chomping Jimenez fired three birdies on the front nine to join Rumford at the top of the leaderboard on 10-under after nine third-round holes, before the heavens opened.
Rhys Davies of Wales lay two shots back, while seven players were tied on seven-under, including big-hitting US star Dustin Johnson.
Jimenez, who is chasing his 19th European Tour win at the Ballantine’s, said he was pleased with his performance after negotiating the up-and-down course with some excellent iron-play.
“Played very well the first nine holes, hitting it very well. No bogeys, three birdies,” Jimenez said.
The 43-year-old Ryder Cup star has a fine record in Asia, with European Tour victories in Hong Kong, Thailand and China, though the Ballantine’s is only his second competitive appearance in South Korea.
The players will resume the incomplete third round at 8am today, before going straight into the fourth round.
Rumford shot a sparkling nine-under 63 on Friday to lead after the second round, but said yesterday’s course set-up had been a tough challenge.
“There were some tricky pins out there today. They were placed up on the top part of all the tiers and ridges, and it was pretty tricky trying to get on the right tier,” Rumford said.
Hopes for a first South Korean winner of the event look to rest with 23-year-old Kim Dae-hyun, who was three shots off the lead.