Macau, May 8: India’s Amandeep Johl stayed firmly on course for his first Asian Tour title at the US$275,000 Macau Open when he opened up a three-shot lead after the third round today.
Johl fired a four-under-par 67 at the Macau Golf and Country Club for a three-day total of 198 to finish clear of American Jason Knutzon, who returned a 68. Lurking four shots back on 202 are Irish star Padraig Harrington, Taiwanese veteran Chen Tze-chung, who carded a superb 62, and last year’s runner-up Scott Barr of Australia.
Overnight rain delayed the start of the third round by four hours at the spectacular par-71 layout but once the skies cleared, Johl, the leader since round one, revelled once again with six birdies against two bogeys.
Johl said: “I made a stupid bogey on one but settled down after that. It’s good to be three shots up but the key is to keep having fun and sticking to my game plan. I’m not going to hold back on any shots and play what is required on each hole tomorrow.”
He will take some words of confidence from compatriot Arjun Atwal, last year’s Asian number one who is now playing on the US PGA Tour. “I spoke to Arjun on the telephone and he said to go ahead and do it. He said it was my time but you’ll never know. I’m just going to keep doing my best. Harrington will be there, he’s a world class player and you cannot count him out. I’m swinging it good and that’s why I’m not making serious mistakes.”
Johl came close to grief on the last hole when he sprayed his drive into the bushes but his playing partner Harmeet Kahlon located the ball and he scrambled for par. “I don’t think I will feel any pressure tomorrow. I’ve spent 10 years without winning and it can’t get any worse than that. Winning has to do a lot with fortune. I??ve got to go to see a tarot card reader!”
For the second successive day, world number eight Harrington birdied his last two holes en route to a 66 which was matched by Barr, who lost in a play-off to Scotsman Colin Montgomerie last year. “I’m happy enough. It was a good finish again. I started with two birdies and finished with two. I’m pleased enough. A lot of it will be in Johl’s hands tomorrow. I would prefer it to be blowing. It is hard to take a lead if it’s windy as when you’re under pressure, it’s hard to keep everything calm,” said Harrington, who has won titles in Hong Kong and Taiwan previously.
When it looked like he was going to end the day well off the lead, Harrington found the extra spark to haul him into the title frame. He brilliantly chipped in for birdie at the par three 17th and chipped close for a finishing birdie at the par five 18th. “I chipped in on 17 which was very pleasing. I definitely needed the two birdies to get up,” said the Irishman, who will defend his BMW Asian Open title in Shanghai next week.
The 46-year-old Chen rolled back the years as superb iron play led to nine brilliant birdies against no bogeys. His 62 matched Johl’s course record set on Thursday but it will not be considered an official record as the preferred lie rule was in effect.
The Taiwanese wielded a hot putter and is upbeat of ending a 10-year title drought. “I’m surprised,” admitted Chen. “I’ve not played well for a long time and lost my exemption in Japan last year. My short game has been a let down in the last few years and this affected my confidence. At the start of this week, I got a good putting tip from Chen Tsang-te during the practice rounds and I started rolling the ball better this week. I putted really good.”
Chen, better known as TC, claimed the 1987 Los Angeles Open on the US PGA Tour, a feat achieved only by three other Asian players to date. But it was two years earlier that he made a name for himself when he nearly won the US Open. He led by four shots after four holes during the final round but made a freak double-hit from off the green at the fifth which led to a quadruple bogey, and eventually finishing tied second behind Andy North.
Despite his intentions to play on the US Champions (Seniors) Tour when he turns 50, Chen believes he is capable of winning the Macau Open if the wind blows like it did on Friday. “I’ll prefer that. I like to grind for pars and maybe putt for birdie once in a while. If I continue to strike the ball well and putt well, I have a chance of winning,” said Chen, who has won seven times in Japan.
Last year’s runner-up Barr was delighted to get a second bite at the Macau Open title. “I’m back there. Amandeep seems to well out in front but it’s a funny golf course. I’m playing very well and I’m putting it beautifully. Finishing second in Macau last year set me up in Asia and I’m glad to be in the running again,” said the former teaching professional.
Two-time former Macau Open champion Zhang Lian-wei of China carded a 69 to finish on five-under for the tournament.
Leading third round scores
198 – Amandeep Johl (IND) 62-69-67
201 – Jason Knutzon (USA) 65-68-68
202 – Chen Tze-chung (TPE) 69-71-62, Padraig Harrington (IRL) 69-67-66, Scott Barr (AUS) 66-70-66
204 – Edward Loar (USA) 71-67-66, Nico Van Rensburg (RSA) 63-70-71, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 64-71-69, Harmeet Kahlon (IND) 66-66-72
205 – Prom Meesawat (THA) 68-75-62
206 – Lu Wen-teh (TPE) 68-71-67, Des Terblanche (RSA) 69-70-67, Ewan Porter (AUS) 68-70-68
207 – Adam Groom (AUS) 69-70-68, Lin Wen-tang (TPE) 65-73-69, Lee Sung-man (KOR) 71-67-69, Koji Katoh (JPN) 69-68-70, David Kang (KOR) 66-69-72, Wang Ter-chang (TPE) 65-70-72
208 – Digvijay Singh (IND) 71-70-67, Arjun Singh (IND) 69-72-67, Andrew Pitts (USA) 70-71-67, R. Nachimuthu (MAS) 70-70-68, Richard Moir (AUS) 72-70-66, Zhang Lian-wei (CHN) 70-69-69, Simon Yates (SCO) 67-76-65, Jason Dawes (AUS) 71-72-65, Sung Mao-chang (TPE) 69-74-65, Chen Tsang-te (TPE) 70-69-69, Lu Wei-Lan (TPE) 68-71-69, Eiji Mizoguchi (JPN) 69-69-70, Vivek Bhandari (IND) 66-69-73
About the Macau Open 2004
The Macau Open commemorates its 7th year starting in 1998. It is sponsored by the Macau Sport Development Board. Participating sponsors include the Macau Government Tourist Office, Holiday Inn Macau as the official Hotel and supplier sponsors, Macao Coca-Cola Beverage Co., Ltd., Spa Philosophy, Bridgestone as the official ball supplier and Carlsberg as the official beer. The Macau Open has been held at the Macau Golf and Country Club ever since its inception. Octagon Greater China is the event manager of the Tournament.