Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata raised Asia’s hopes of welcoming their second WGC-HSBC Champions champion after he posted a third round four-under-par 68 to trim Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell’s lead to one shot on Saturday.
The Japanese, who is playing in his first World Golf Championship event, closed with a birdie at the last to sign for a three-day total of 10-under-par 206, putting himself in prime position to become the second Asian after Honorary member Y.E. Yang (2006) to lift the WGC-HSBC Champions title.
McDowell kept his grip on his overnight lead but saw his advantage reduced when he returned with a 71 at the Sheshan International Golf Club.
Major winners Martin Kaymer of Germany and American Bubba Watson lurked closely after they carded 66 and 69 respectively to share third place on 207 total at the US$8.5 million Chinese showpiece.
Despite standing on the verge of a potential WGC breakthrough, Iwata prefers to keep his emotions in check and not be overwhelmed by the occasion at Asia’s richest tournament.
“Overall I think I’m playing pretty good. I’m not overly excited and I’m just focusing on my game. Maybe tomorrow coming up the last few holes, I might get a little bit nervous, but so far I’m calm.
“I’m quite short tempered, so I’ll try not to get too angry at myself. I believe I’m doing pretty well at that at the moment and I just want to keep that going,” said Iwata.
McDowell meanwhile expressed his disappointment at seeing his advantage being reduced and is determined to stage another worthy performance that will give him a grandstand finish.
“Let’s be honest, I had a three shot lead overnight and it’s only one now, but I’ll take this position any week that you offer it to me, a one shot lead going into the last round, on a golf course that I enjoy; I’m looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow.
“I played reasonably solid today but I thought conditions were a little bit more difficult, colder, obviously a little bit of overnight rain made the golf course play a little bit longer.
“I didn’t quite score as well as I did the last couple days but I gave myself some confidence from a ball-striking point of view so that I can get the job done tomorrow,” said the former US Open champion who mixed his card with three birdies and two bogeys.
Kaymer, who won the WGC-HSBC Champions title in 2011, had the lowest round of the day thanks to seven birdies and was clearly relieved to find form again in his short game.
“Finally I could make some putts today. The first two days I played really well but the putter was a little cold. Today was even more important to hit the fairways.
“Once you were in the rough, it was wet, thick rough, and it’s tough to get it on to the green, especially on that golf course where you have a lot of bunkers around the greens.
“Obviously you need a little help from Graeme in order to win but I’m playing really well and that’s all I can do,” said the German.
The WGC-HSBC Champions is one of four World Golf Championships sanctioned and organised by the operational committee of the International Federation of PGA Tours, which includes the Asian Tour, European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour. The other World Golf Championships include the WGC- Match Play, WGC-Cadillac Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Leading Scores after round 3 of the WGC – HSBC Champions being played at the par 72, 7261 Yards Sheshan International Golf Club course (am – denotes amateur):
205 – Graeme MCDOWELL (NIR) 67-67-71.
206 – Hiroshi IWATA (JPN) 73-65-68.
207 – Martin KAYMER (GER) 69-72-66, Bubba WATSON (USA) 71-67-69.
208 – Rickie FOWLER (USA) 69-70-69, Tim CLARK (RSA) 69-70-69.
209 – Thorbjorn OLESEN (DEN) 72-68-69, Ian POULTER (ENG) 70-67-72.
210 – Jonas BLIXT (SWE) 71-68-71.
212 – Lee WESTWOOD (ENG) 70-73-69, Chris KIRK (USA) 69-74-69, Brandt SNEDEKER (USA) 69-74-69, Marc LEISHMAN (AUS) 72-71-69, Louis OOSTHUIZEN (RSA) 70-70-72.
213 – WU Ashun (CHN) 74-70-69, Adam SCOTT (AUS) 70-72-71, Hunter MAHAN (USA) 74-68-71, Alexander LEVY (FRA) 74-68-71.
214 – George COETZEE (RSA) 72-73-69, Jason DUFNER (USA) 72-70-72, J B HOLMES (USA) 70-71-73.
215 – Patrick REED (USA) 71-73-71, Stephen GALLACHER (SCO) 72-72-71.
216 – Jordan SPIETH (USA) 70-74-72, Bill HAAS (USA) 70-74-72, Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 75-72-69, Hideki MATSUYAMA (JPN) 74-69-73, Marc WARREN (SCO) 75-72-69, Jamie DONALDSON (WAL) 71-77-68.
217 – Ryan MOORE (USA) 74-71-72, Joost LUITEN (NED) 77-71-69, Dawie VAN DER WALT (RSA) 70-72-75, Jimmy WALKER (USA) 73-69-75.
218 – Brendon TODD (USA) 71-74-73, Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 74-70-74, Tommy FLEETWOOD (ENG) 69-75-74, John SENDEN (AUS) 73-73-72, Ryan PALMER (USA) 74-72-72, Ernie ELS (RSA) 74-70-74, Kevin NA (USA) 71-68-79.