Kuala Lumpur: Lee Westwood will have a fight on his hands after compatriot Andy Sullivan charged into contention during the penultimate round of the Maybank Malaysian Open on Saturday.
Westwood, seventh at the Masters Tournament last week, started the day four shots ahead of the chasing pack and looked set to increase it at one stage but a closing bogey saw him sign for a one-under 71 at the US$2.75 million tournament.
That left the 40-year-old on 14-under-par 274 with former Walker Cup star Sullivan one back following an excellent six-under 66 at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
Frenchman Julien Quesne carded a second consecutive 69 to move up to third on ten- under 206 with Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts (72) was a shot further back in fourth.
Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, a winner on the Asian Tour last season, was the best placed Asian in tied fifth position following a 70, six shots behind Westwood.
The Englishman battled hard to stay on course of ending a two-year title drought which dates back to the 2012 Nordea Masters in Sweden.
“It was really hot. That’s as hot as I’ve been on a golf course for quite some time. It was a real grind. I was leaking out there a little bit. You can get glazed up and lose your concentration quite easily. But I’m leading going into the last round so I’m quite happy with that,” said Westwood, who has won 12 times in the region.
The world number 36 was two-under for the day through 11 holes before the birdies dried up. He parred the next six holes but missed a par putt on 18 to allow Sullivan to get to within one of the lead.
“It will be hot again so I’ll have to try to keep control of my swing, the ball and my emotions. It is easy to get wound up when it is as hot and humid as this,” he added.
Sullivan was delighted to set up a final day shootout against Westwood, whom he idolises. The young Englishman made a big move highlighted by three straight birdies from the fifth hole after dropping his only shot on four. Like most in the field, Sullivan ran on fumes and needed a birdie on 16 to keep his round going.
“I felt myself getting a bit tired coming up on 15 and 16. I had a couple of sloppy swings in there but I didn’t drop any shots. I holed a good putt on 16 to keep the momentum going. It was tough out there to keep your concentration but I’m glad my adrenaline kept me going,” he said.
Quesne, a two-time European Tour winner, recovered from an opening bogey by shooting four consecutive birdies from hole four. He traded three more birdies against as many bogeys on his homeward nine to stay four shots from the leader.
“The first three holes were not so good for me but I birdied four in a row which was good. I hit a few bad shots in the middle of the round but I’m glad with how I recovered,” said Quesne.
Leading third round scores >
202 – Lee Westwood (ENG) 65-66-71
203 – Andy Sullivan (ENG) 70-67-66
206 – Julien Quesne (FRA) 68-69-69
207 – Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 66-69-72
208 – Rikard Kalberg (SWE) 72-69-67, Garth Mulroy (RSA) 71-68-69, Masahiro Kawamura (JPN) 68-70-70, Richard Santos (POR) 67-71-70, Eduardo De La Riva (ESP) 69-68-71, Danny Willett (ENG) 70-66-72
209 – Tom Lewis (ENG) 70-71-68, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 72-68-69, Scott Jamieson (SCO) 68-71-70