IRON MAN ZHANG IN SIGHT OF VICTORY IN QINGDAO
Zhang Lianwei impressively shook off the effects of a huge birthday bash to maintain a healthy lead in the Qingdao Leg of the Omega China Tour on Saturday.
He fired a tenacious third-round one-over-par 73 in windy weather at Qingdao Huashan Golf Club for a four stroke lead over Li Chao, who returned a 74.
In the place that is the home of Tsingtao beer, Zhang was the toast of the town on Friday night as he celebrated his 42nd birthday. Hundreds of guests attended the function which was held at the golf club.
Despite the large night, Zhang posted another steady round for a three-round total of level-par 216.
“It was a very special evening and I was really quite overwhelmed. I wasn’t really too tired this morning,” said Zhang with smirk as he had raised one glass after another with players and officials during the party.
The man from Zhuhai made one birdie and two bogeys to put himself on the threshold of his third victory on the Tour, which was inaugurated in 2005.
“The rough is very thick here which is why the scores are so high. Luckily I am really playing very steady at the moment and not making any mistakes. I just need to hole a few putts,” added Zhang.
Zhang won the Omega Order of Merit title in 2006 and is on track to defend that title this year having finished second in the season-opening Sofitel Golf Championship in Nanjing two weeks ago.
Li, who lifted the Merit list trophy in 2005 and was second last year, made ground on his playing partner Zhang with birdies on 12 and 13 but then registered a costly five on the par-three 14th.
“The 14th was playing almost impossible because of the wind and pin placement. Overall I had a good day apart from that hole,” said Li, who also triumphed twice last year.
“I feel I am coming back into a bit of form and on this course with the wind a four shot lead is not a big lead but it is Zhang who is in front and he is always tough to catch,” added Li.
Wu Weihuang and Deng Yonghong lie five strokes behind Zhang after both carding 74s.
Yuan Hao, one of the Tour’s up-and-coming players and one of its biggest hitters, was on Zhang’s tail for much of the day but finished with a bogey on 16 followed by two double bogeys. He carded a 75 and will be disappointed to find himself seven adrift of Zhang.