WGC-HSBC Champions

Westwood storms into share of lead at WGC-Champions

Lee Westwood comes from nine shots back to grab a share of the lead with a 61 on a remarkable day for scoring at the WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills on Saturday.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 4:54pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 6:14pm

Lee Westwood came from nine shots back to grab a share of the lead with a 61 on a remarkable day for scoring at the WGC-HSBC Champions at Mission Hills on Saturday.

The Englishman came flying out of teh blocks with three birdies in a row and added three more on 5, 7 and 9 for an outward half of 30. Four birdies in a row from 14-17 gave him a share of the lead with Louis Oosthuizen, while a chance for the outright lead at the last just went begging.

Oosthuizen had started the day five shots ahead after tying the tournament record with 63 on Friday, but he suffered his first average round of the week - four birdies and two bogeys giving him a 70.

Playing partner Ernie Els reeled him in relentlessly on the front nine, three birdies and an eagle giving him a share of the lead before he fell away a little on the back nine with a double-bogey, bogey sequence at 15 and 16 for a 69.

Phil Mickelson had a solid 66 to lie three shots behind Westwood and Oosthuizen, while Ian Poulter (65), Bill Haas (66) and Els are in a share of fourth on 14 under.

“I think basically the course is in great condition, and we’re starting to get used to playing it,” said Westwood. “It was the first time I had seen it in the pro-am on Wednesday and we went around in buggies or carts and you don’t really get a feel for it.

“As the week’s gone on and we’ve played it and walked it more, I started to sort of get a feel for the golf course.

“I played very solidly, got off to a nice start, birdied the first three holes and kept ticking over and finished strongly, birdied four of the last five. I hit it good, hit it in the fairway, hit it close and made a couple of 20-footers which have been missing.”

It says something for the quality of the day’s play at the Olazabal course that Brandt Snedeker’s superb new tournament record 60 – he had a putt on 18 for a 59 – was almost overshadowed.

The American birdied his first four, added four more at 7, 9, 10 and 13 and then went eagle, birdie, birdie from 15 to walk down the 18th fairway knowing he had a chance at golf’s magic number.

“There’s actually a twinge of disappointment there,” he said. “You don't get a chance to shoot 59 too often, maybe a couple of times in your career and to do it in a World Golf Championships event is special.  I played great today, made a lot of putts.

“[The eagle] was when it got in my mind.  I knew I was playing well, and I was having a really good round and then I eagled 15 and I thought, well, wait a second, if I birdie the last three, I can shoot 59.

“I know when you have these days, you need to go as low as you possibly can. They don't come around very often.  No reason to be nervous or scared.  That's the best you're ever going to be over a ball, so you might as well go after it and shoot as low as you can.  I had fun. 

"These days happen maybe three times a year, two times a year, so when you have them, you'd better enjoy them.”

India’s Gaganjeet Bhullar was another with an excellent round, out in 30 with six birdies before adding three more on the back nine for a 63 to be leading Asian player after day three. On 12 under, he’s one shot behind Snedeker, and as the shooting today showed, almost anyone within eight to 10 shots should be in contention on a fascinating final Sunday.

“It could have been a little better, because I missed four putts inside 10 feet today,” said Bhullar. “There is a lot of low scoring this week.  A lot of golf left, and it's a WGC.  I’m expecting a lot of good golf for Sunday afternoon.”

China’s Wu Ashun had a 71 and lies seven under, while Liang Wenchong had a fine 66 to move up to five under.