South African Branden Grace took a strong grip on the lead in the Volvo China Open after a sparkling eight-under-par third round of 64.
The penultimate day of a tournament is known as “moving day” as players bid to put themselves in position for a tilt at the title, and that was certainly borne out in benign conditions in Tianjin today.
Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay emulated Grace’s 64, the bogey-free round taking him into third, a shot behind Nicolas Colsaerts.
Grace’s compatriot George Coetzee and Sweden’s Alexander Noren surged from well off the pace to share fourth place on 13 under after rounds of 64 and 63 respectively.
But overnight leaders Gary Boyd and Jean-Baptiste Gonnet failed to build on their strong starting position. While Gonnet’s 70 kept him in touch with the leaders, Boyd could only manage a one-under 71 and slipped to a share of ninth place on 12 under.
Grace was five under for the front nine today, picking up a shot at the second before two further birdies sandwiched an eagle at the sixth.
His only dropped shot came with a three-putt at the 14th but he bounced back with a superb pitch to close range at 15 as he birdied three of the last four.
Defending champion Colsaerts was less spectacular but a tidy 67 kept him within three shots of the lead.
The Belgian had two birdies on the front nine and four more after the turn, though his par on the 17th will have felt as satisfying as any of them after an excellent escape from a bunker.
The diminutive Zanotti hit the ground running with three birdies in the first four holes and another before the turn. Further pairs of birdies at 12 and 13 and then the last two holes meant he had climbed 14 places on the leaderboard.
Coetzee bounced back from a dropped shot at the second with four successive birdies from the fifth and four more in the last five holes.
And Noren’s nine-under-par total, the best of the day, featured six birdies in the last seven holes, his only blemish coming with a bogey four at the short third as he jumped 25 places up the standings.
Boyd was one of the few players not to capitalise on good scoring conditions, throwing away his opening birdie with back-to-back bogeys.
The pattern was repeated from the 12th but a birdie-birdie finish salvaged the round somewhat.
Gonnet was two under for the front nine but made pars all the way home, the last coming despite a wayward second shot which struck a disgruntled female spectator.
He therefore closed on 13 under, level with Coetzee, Noren, Spaniard Ignacio Garrido (67) and Australia’s Marcus Fraser, who responded to his only bogey at 16 with the fifth and sixth birdies of his round.