Thursday 17 August 2017

Yang leads charge for Chinese crown

Andrew Mullen in Suzhou

USPGA Championship winner YE Yang will take a one-shot lead over Finland's Mikko Ilonen and Welshman Jamie Donaldson into this morning's final round of the Volvo China Open.

The Korean looks in superb form as he seeks to build on last week's eighth-place finish at the Masters and he carded a bogey-free four-under-par 68 to top the leaderboard at 14-under par after a see-saw third day at a blustery Jinji Lake International Golf Club.

Fast-starting Ilonen carded six birdies in his 68, while Donaldson dropped just one shot for a three-under 69 to remain in the hunt for a maiden European Tour title after finishing sixth in Andalucia two weeks ago.

"Today was bogey-free but it was also tough to save par on a lot of occasions," said 38-year-old Yang. "Overall, it was difficult but I am very satisfied that I saved a lot of pars and it puts me in a good position on the leaderboard. Hopefully, I can sustain my performance."

After overnight leader Kim Do-hoon, Yang, Donaldson and Ilonen all held the lead on the front nine, Yang briefly opened up a two-shot advantage with four to play after just missing a long eagle putt before converting for a third birdie in five holes after the turn.

But after playing partner Donaldson also picked up a shot at the par-five 14th, Ilonen's sixth birdie of the day arrived at the par-three 17th to trim the advantage and push the pair two shots clear of Spain's Pablo Larrazabal (70) with Kim (73) and 2005 champion Stephen Dodd (66) at 10-under.

"I am very happy. I played nicely from the start and really got it going in the middle," said 34-year-old Donaldson, who has just one top-10 finish to his name this year.

Ilonen made the early running with three birdies in four holes and, after finding water off the tee at the par-three sixth, briefly took his turn to head the field after a birdie at the ninth.

"I felt confident coming into this week and have done all week," said two-time winner Ilonen. "I have been concentrating on my putting and I have putted well. I feel comfortable on these greens. I like the speed -- there's some grain but not too much. I feel like I have a good feel with my clubs too."

Larrazabal made a late move back into contention after following up a double-bogey seven at the start of the back nine with a hat-trick of birdies to rescue a two-under-par round.

Damien McGrane and Graeme McDowell shot two-under-par rounds to retain joint-17th place in a group that includes Shane Lowry and 2010 US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.

Having reached the turn in 34, McGrane then birdied the 14th to go three-under to start a move up the leaderboard. But a bogey, birdie, par and bogey finish on the last four holes proved costly and he remains eight shots off the lead.

Lowry secured a level-par finish after going two-over following bogeys on the third and 14th holes. Then two birdies on the par-four 16th and 18th holes meant he retained his six-under-par total overall and 17th place.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport