SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Tony Finau will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions after a birdie-birdie-birdie finish combined with a late collapse from Justin Rose kept the American in front at the Sheshan International on Saturday.
Finau had started the day with a three-stroke lead after a stunning second round but needed his spectacular finish to clamber back to the top of the leaderboard with a two-under-par 70 after three bogeys had him playing at two-over by the 12th.
He reclaimed one shot at the 13th, commenced his purple patch at the 16th before flirting with a hole-in-one at the par-three 17 and slotting a 10-foot birdie putt at the last to move to 13-under 203 for the tournament.
That put him clear of Xander Schauffele (69), first round leader Patrick Reed (70) and defending champion Rose, who finished with double bogey-bogey to sign for a 70 after reaching 17th tee at five-under.
“To still have the lead going into tomorrow, I’m pretty fortunate,” said American Finau.
“There’s 18 more holes to play and it’s a world class field. I’ve got to keep my head down for 18 more holes and do my thing. I didn’t give up today, that’s always my mentality – just keep fighting until the end.”
Rose, the 2018 Fedex Cup champion, overhauled an eight-shot deficit to win the tournament last year and so will still have hope of retaining the title and dethroning Brooks Koepka as world number one.
“I’ve got to go out tomorrow, shoot maybe something in the mid 60s and see if I can chase Tony down,” Rose said.
“I’m playing well, feeling good. Just got to put that last couple holes behind me and come out a little bit angry tomorrow.”
Englishman Rose would return to the summit he occupied briefly earlier this year if he defends the title and Koepka, who was in share of 28th after a third-round 71, finishes in a tie for second or worse.
Tommy Fleetwood was another Englishman who probably would prefer to forget his back nine on Saturday after a triple bogey at the 14th dropped him back into the pack.
A Ryder Cup hero for Europe in Paris, Fleetwood finished with a birdie for a 72 and a share of fifth with American Andrew Putnam, who shot a 67 to move to eight-under for the tournament.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Sudipto Ganguly.)