Phil Mickelson took a two-stroke lead after the third round of the HSBC Champions event yesterday to give himself a big chance of winning for the first time in 14 years on foreign soil.
The world No. 2, who rarely plays outside the US, continued to show he is equally comfortable in unfamiliar Chinese territory with a four-under 68 to be placed at 14-under for the tournament.
Young Englishman Ross Fisher was in outright second place on 12-under, while countryman Paul Casey was in third position one shot further back after shooting a six-under 66, the best round of the day.
American Kevin Stadler, who led for the first two days, slipped back to fourth spot with a one-over 73 playing alongside Mickelson and Fisher, but he remained in contention at just four shots off the pace.
Reigning British Open champion Padraig Harrington, three-time Major winner Vijay Singh and defending champion Yang Yong-eun of South Korea were in a pack tied for fifth at seven-under for the tournament.
Mickelson is aiming to win his first professional title outside of the US since lifting the Perrier Open trophy in France in 1993.
All his 32 professional titles have been won inside the US on the US PGA Tour.
The US$5 million HSBC Champions tournament is Asia's richest golf event and has attracted 10 of the world's top 20 ranked players.
■ LPGA CHAMPIONS
Paula Creamer took a five-stroke lead halfway through the US$1 million LPGA Tournament of Champions, firing a bogey-free seven-under par 65 on Friday to seize command.
The 21-year-old US standout birdied her final seven holes on Thursday, then picked up where she left off by starting round two with a birdie. Creamer added birdies at six and eight and began the back nine with a birdie as well.
Birdies at 15, 16 and a 35-footer for birdie at the 18th left Creamer on 12-under par 132 after 36 holes, five ahead of second-place Hong Jin-joo of South Korea.
US veteran Meg Mallon, who shared the lead with Creamer when the day began, struggled to an 82 and fell to a share of 29th.
Creamer, who shared second here last year, is seeking her fourth career LPGA title.
Three of Creamer's closest pursuers -- Hong, Sweden's Annika Sorenstam and Britain's Karen Stupples -- each fired 67s to stay in the hunt.
Sorenstam, seeking her first title of the year and the 70th of her Hall of Fame career, was third on 138. She birdied five of the first seven holes on the back nine but a bogey at 17 dropped her level with Pat Hurst of the US.
Stupples was sixth on 139, one atop Norway's Suzann Pettersen and three strokes ahead of the US' Wendy Ward, Korean Birdie Kim and Sweden's Carin Koch.
Pettersen, 26, has won three of her prior four starts but was hit with two penalty strokes on the par-five 13th after inadvertently moving the ball when she touched a twig in the rough and then failing to replace the ball.