SSP Chawrasia to draw on victory in Indian Open pressure cooker as he aims for wire-to-wire Hong Kong Open win
The 39-year-old is as calm as ever after shooting a 69 to retain the lead heading into the final day
The chasing pack are coming hard at the UBS Hong Kong Open, but India’s SSP Chawrasia remains as calm now as he has been all week.
The 39-year-old shot a one-under-par 69 to retain the lead for the third straight day and is hoping he has the tools to finish the job.
It was as recently as March that he held his nerve to win in the pressure cooker of the Indian Open after leading from day two onwards.
“Pressure … that’s what I learned, how to stay controlled under pressure,” Chawrasia said about his victory on home soil. “If I am playing at home I get more pressure, lots of friends, I know all the people so they are expecting a lot. Here are just a few friends …”
After starting the day with a two-shot lead, Chawrasia, ranked 231st in the world, waited patiently in the clubhouse as player after player staked their claim at Fanling, with 12 players finishing day three within four shots of the lead.
Where during the opening two days things came easy for Chawrasia, he had to scrap and fight his way through a round that featured only two birdies.
“I’m still leading but today I missed a couple of putts. I’m surprised I’m leading to be honest but I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he said.
“Tomorrow I have to just focus my putting. If I shoot five under I think it is more than enough [to win].”
“More of the same” has been the catchphrase for Chawrasia this week and he is certainly not about to change that now: “I’m going to my room, shower, dinner and sleep.”
Rafa Cabrera Bello was Saturday’s biggest mover, with the Spaniard producing six birdies and an eagle in his six-under-par 64 to draw within a stroke of the lead.
Cabrera Bello is edging closer to avenging his second place in Hong Kong last year, where Australian Sam Brazel pipped him on the final hole.
“I don’t think it would mean more, I think it would be just a little extra special that last year I finished runner up and this year perhaps I could win it,” he said.
Ranked 20th in the world, Cabrera Bello knows it will take some smart golf to get the job done on Sunday.
“It’s the shortest course that we play all year, yet the scores are not even close to as low as we can score on many other courses, which just makes a statement saying that golf is not just about hitting long,” he said.
Cabrera Bello shares second spot with Australian Wade Ormsby, while Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood is one of the three players a shot further back on eight under. Fleetwood’s round of 66 featured three birdies and peaked with an eagle in front of the masses on the 10th hole.
“I wasn’t just coming here for a party after winning the Race to Dubai,” the 26-year-old said. “I’ve felt good going to the golf course every day. I enjoy playing the course, really. It’s good that I feel as good as I do, because it is quite a mentally straining golf course.
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“It is difficult to make birdies out there, but all you can do is keep putting yourself in position and a round like today, that can only help for tomorrow.”
In a boon for organisers, superstars Sergio Garcia (four under) and Justin Rose (five under) are still in the mix heading into the final day.