Ignoring pressure, Bourdy birdies his way into lead
It must be all those good French reds they grow down his native way: Bordeaux-born Gregory Bourdy looked pretty relaxed all day as he lived up to his name, rolling in a clutch of birdies to take a handy two-shot lead into the final round at the UBS Hong Kong Open today.
'It is one of my best-ever rounds,' Bourdy declared flamboyantly after he carded a bogey-free seven-under-par 63 for a 16-under total of 194, and stay in front for the second successive day.
Many players might have crumbled under the pressure Bourdy was facing. He hasn't won a tournament this year and he desperately needs to finish in the top two today to clinch a lucrative berth in The Race to Dubai, which ends next week at the Dubai World Championship. Despite the high stakes, the Frenchman remained cool as he rolled in seven birdies and saved par on numerous occasions to occupy the top of the leaderboard, which he had shared with three others at the end of the second round.
'I really enjoyed it out there. I feel good on this course and I feel good in Hong Kong,' said Bourdy, who has carded rounds of 64, 67 and 63. 'My long game was not at its best, but my putting was unbelievable. This, and my consistency with my irons, has been the key.'
Two shots behind Bourdy and in second place is playing partner Robert-Jan Derksen of the Netherlands on 14 under, while Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy was in third place, five shots off the pace.
Two-time Hong Kong Open champion (2004 and 2007) Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, defending champion Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan, Irishman Peter Lawrie and Italian Francesco Molinari - who was also involved in last year's play-off - were bunched together on 10 under, six shots behind Bourdy.
The way the calm and unperturbed Bourdy has been playing, it seems it is his tournament to lose.
'I won't bother looking at the leaderboard or the players behind me, as I know if I shoot under par, I have a good chance to win,' said Bourdy, who will once again be paired with Derksen. 'I will concentrate on my game and play it shot by shot.
'I am in a good position. I would rather be two shots ahead than two behind. I will continue playing the same way I have done in the last three rounds.'
Derksen, who like Bourdy has to finish in the top two to seal a berth in the top 60 for Dubai, believes he will have his work cut out.
'There is a bit of a cushion behind me, but on the other hand he [Bourdy] is two in front, so if he has another good round, I will have to shoot low to catch him,' said Derksen, who finished with a 65 yesterday.
It was chilly but with only a slight hint of wind, and the par-70 Composite Course encouraged low scores as the 68-strong field jockeyed for position before the final day's onslaught.
A double-bogey on the sixth hole failed to faze McIlroy, who responded immediately with two birdies at the subsequent holes, much to the delight of his fans.
'The double took me right back to square one after I had picked up two shots at the start. But I hit back well with birdies on seven and eight,' McIlroy said. 'Then I played good golf around the turn and picked up four shots in four holes [including an eagle].'
Over the past three days, McIlroy has missed at least 10 chances for birdies. But he refuses to be disheartened. 'I was in a similar position going into the final round last year and shot a 65 to get into the play-off. I'll have to do something like that or even better tomorrow. The plan is to get off to a fast start and try to keep it going.'
Asia's first major winner, Yang Yong-eun of South Korea, couldn't really find his feet as he came up with an ordinary 69 to sit eight shots behind the leader. The best-placed Asian player in the co-sanctioned tournament is Lin, who also struggled to find the birdies as he carded a 67. Chinese No 1 Liang Wenchong, who had been in a four-way tie for the lead overnight, had a nightmare, shooting a one-over 72 to tumble down to 19th, nine shots off the pace.