Little-known young Chinese golfer Chen Guxin is threatening to record a shock victory in the US$1.5 million Volvo China Open after carding a six-under-par 66 to take the third-round lead on 14-under today at Hidden Grace Golf Club, in Shenzhen.
The 20-year-old, currently in lowly 114th place on the Asian Tour Order of Merit (OOM), is three ahead of a resurgent Sarit Suwannarut from Thailand, who returned a joint best of the day 65, and China’s amateur sensation Ding Wenyi, last year’s US Junior Amateur champion, in with a 67.
Overnight leader Eugenio Chacarra from Spain surprisingly slipped to a 73 and is tied fourth on eight under in a five-man group still within touching distance. The LIV Golf League star is joined by Australian John Lyras, who birdied five out of the last six to shoot a 67, Chinese-Taipei’s Hung Chien-yao who hit a 66, Bangladesh’s Siddikur Rahman with a 69, and Berry Henson from the United States, who signed for a 70.
Chen was playing on the Asian Development Tour last year, where he won two events and finished fifth on the OOM to earn his Asian Tour card for this season. Wearing his trademark wide-brimmed cricket hat, Chen is on track for the tournament of his life after a brilliant round made up of seven birdies and just one bogey on 18, following a three-putt.
He began the day one back from the leader Chacarra before a four-under-par front nine with birdies on two, four, six, and nine saw him make the turn with a one-shot lead. Birdies on 10, 12 and 17 saw him move four ahead before he three putted from 30 feet on the last.
“I always regarded myself as ‘Mr 54 hole’,” joked Chen, referring to the occasions when he’s led after three days before a bad final round.
“Might as well aim to shoot 73 tomorrow. Then I can relax and have a good rest tonight. But more seriously, I suppose the winning score will be 18 under. I need to shoot three or four under.”
The top-65 on the OOM keep their Tour cards for 2024 and with just five events remaining, including this week, Chen has chosen the right time to kick start his season. He has played 10 events this season, recorded a best finish of joint 14th in The DGC Open presented by Mastercard, and missed four cuts.
He is also very aware of the threat that his Asian Games team-mate Ding poses.
“He has everything. He can drive far, hit great iron shots and putts brilliantly.”
Eighteen-year-old Ding is clearly looking for redemption after losing the Asian Amateur Championship in a sudden-death play-off last Sunday.
“I didn’t hit it well on the range in the morning, so I am little surprised to be in second place,” said the towering six foot three inch golfer, who is attached to Hidden Grace and finished runner-up in this event in 2020, when it was played as a China-only event due to the global pandemic.
“My long game was not good today and I made several mistakes. However, my putting was okay, though not as good as yesterday. The important point is, when I make the mistakes, I recovered well.
“I will just try to play my best. I suppose everything could happen tomorrow, who knows.”
He started slowly with one birdie on the front half before tearing the back nine apart with five birdies and just one bogey.
Returning to the putter he used to win last December’s BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE – his one Asian Tour victory to date – and a vacation recently has helped Sarit regain much-needed form after a poor season when he has been unable to get into contention and missed numerous cuts.
“Everything went the right way, just like the Indonesian Masters last year,” said the Thai golfer.
“I feel confident, feel like I can hit where I want to and be really aggressive. A vacation last week with my family helped a lot. I took a week off from golf as this year has been tough. I really wanted time with my family and got it. I really needed that and after I got back I found something with my coach. Worked a little bit on my swing and my putting.
“I knew this year would be up and down, I just didn’t expect it to go that low. It’s golf, it’s life. At beginning of the year I had an injury but then mainly putting was the problem. But now I switched back to the same putter I used at the Indonesian Masters and it’s getting better.”
American Andy Ogletree had a poor day by his standards carding a 72, which included a triple bogey on the 15th, but sits in ninth place on seven under and is still well placed to wrap up The International Series Order of Merit title.
He’ll lift that trophy tomorrow and book a place on next year’s LIV Golf League if he finishes outright third or better and Kieran Vincent from Zimbabwe finishes outside the top-five. Vincent, second on the Merit list, fired a 72 and is four-under in a tie for 23rd.
A victory by Chacarra would mean Ogletree needs to finish outright second to clinch the title, with two International Series events remaining: next week’s Hong Kong Open and the BNI Indonesian Masters presented by TNE the week after.
Scores after round 3 of the Volvo China Open 2023 being played at the par 72, 7145 Yards Hidden Grace GC course (am – denotes amateur):
202 – Chen Guxin (CHN) 68-68-66.
205 – Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 70-70-65, Ding Wenyi (am, CHN) 70-68-67.
208 – John Lyras (AUS) 72-69-67, Hung Chien-yao (TPE) 75-67-66, Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 70-69-69, Berry Henson (USA) 72-66-70, Eugenio Chacarra (ESP) 67-68-73.
209 – Yongjun Bae (KOR) 74-68-67, Kento Nakai (JPN) 68-71-70, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA) 72-72-65, Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 68-71-70, Jack Thompson (AUS) 67-70-72, Andy Ogletree (USA) 68-69-72.
210 – Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA) 67-74-69, Taichi Kho (HKG) 71-69-70, Pawin Ingkhapradit (THA) 68-72-70, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 70-73-67, Graeme McDowell (NIR) 72-68-70, Steve Lewton (ENG) 68-70-72.
211 – Ben Campbell (NZL) 69-70-72, Zhang Huilin (CHN) 67-69-75.
212 – Ben Leong (MAS) 66-76-70, Jaco Ahlers (RSA) 70-71-71, Jbe Kruger (RSA) 71-72-69, Taehee Lee (KOR) 73-68-71, Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 68-75-69, Kieran Vincent (ZIM) 71-69-72, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 70-70-72, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 69-70-73, Paul Peterson (USA) 68-69-75.
213 – Doyeob Mun (KOR) 68-73-72, Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA) 67-75-71, Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN) 68-73-72, Miguel Tabuena (PHI) 73-68-72, Karandeep Kochhar (IND) 71-70-72, Wang Wei-hsuan (TPE) 74-69-70, Settee Prakongvech (THA) 67-73-73, Angelo Que (PHI) 72-68-73, Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 69-74-70.
214 – Richard T. Lee (CAN) 69-72-73, Poom Saksansin (THA) 72-71-71, Sangmoon Bae (KOR) 70-73-71, Travis Smyth (AUS) 74-69-71, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 72-72-70, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 74-70-70, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 71-67-76, Mingyu Cho (KOR) 76-68-70.
215 – Wu Di (CHN) 69-72-74, Justin Quiban (PHI) 72-71-72, Scott Hend (AUS) 75-69-71, Prom Meesawat (THA) 70-69-76, Danthai Boonma (THA) 73-71-71, Chang Wei-lun (TPE) 72-72-71, Yonggu Shin (CAN) 73-71-71.
216 – Jin Daxing (CHN) 68-75-73.
217 – Douglas Klein (AUS) 70-72-75, Gordan Brixi (CZE) 70-71-76, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 69-72-76, Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA) 70-73-74, Yang Yinong (CHN) 70-73-74, Zhao Xingyu (CHN) 72-72-73.
219 – Chikkarangappa S. (IND) 68-74-77, Michael Maguire (USA) 69-74-76, Miguel Carballo (ARG) 71-73-75.
220 – Todd Sinnott (AUS) 70-74-76.
223 – Huang Zijie (CHN) 69-73-81.
224 – Zhuang Zhu (CHN) 71-72-81.