Liang closer to European win

By Martin Parry SINGAPORE, AFP

China’s top player Liang Wen-chong inched a step closer to a maiden European Tour victory Saturday by taking a share of the third round lead at the Singapore Masters.

Liang, who is aiming to become only the second Chinese player ever to win a European Tour event after Zhang Liang-wei took the title here in 2003, is at 12-under-par alongside England’s Gary Lockerbie.

Second round leader Jyoti Randhawa of India, who has won six Asian Tour titles, struck a par 72 to be a stroke further back on 11 under while Malaysia’s Iain Steel and Ireland’s Peter Lawrie were two off the pace.

Thai hero Thongchai Jaidee lurks a shot behind them while England’s Nick Dougherty, who won here in 2005 and was runner-up last year, made a late charge up the leaderboard with a 66 to remain in the hunt.

After a bogey on the first hole, Liang, 29, sank three eagles and four birdies, including a crucial 20-foot putt on the 18th, to claw his way back into contention and set up an intriguing final round.

He said he was not going to put himself under pressure but instead would just enjoy himself on Sunday.

“I’m really happy. I played the Masters Course in this tournament first time on Friday where I putted really well. I’m glad that it was the same today,” said Liang, who has taken over the mantle as China’s top talent from Zhang.

“My main goal was to be in the final grouping. That was what I was gunning for and I’m happy that I did it. As for Sunday, all I want to do is to just enjoy the atmosphere out on course.

“I’ve been in this position before in the Philippines going in the final group and I’m going to take it easy now, not pressure myself, and see what the outcome is.”

Lockerbie, who only turned professional in 2005, has never finished higher than fifth on the European Tour (at the Malaysian Open earlier this year).

He failed to hold the outright lead overnight after dropping a shot on his final hole.

“I would definitely have taken being tied for the lead after today. I would have taken 69 as well so I am just going to forget about what happened at the last,” said the 24-year-old.

“I think the birdie down the 17th was a bit of a bonus anyway so that is what happens.

“As for Sunday, I will just try to get off to a steady start, not try to do anything fancy because I don’t think it is going to be a really low score which wins.

“If I can knock it round in three or four under I’m not going to be far away.”

Randhawa, who has missed four cuts this year, fired four birdies against an equal number of bogeys and said the wind caused him problems.

“The wind was stronger and it wouldn’t let up,” he said.

“It was also very gusty and on a few shots I thought the wind would pop up and it didn’t and my ball went over the green so you have to be careful out there,” he said.