Late Surge Gives Australian Blizard 54-Hole Lanhai Open Lead
SHANGHAI, China—In a back-and-forth afternoon, where four different players held the lead at various times over the final nine holes, Australia’s Rohan Blizard shot a 3-under 69 Saturday to take the 54-hole lead at the Lanhai Open. It looked like Blizard’s 10-under score would give him a share the lead with China’s Zecheng Dou, but Dou bogeyed his final hole to fall into a tie for second with American Jarin Todd, a stroke behind Blizard. Three other players, second-round leader Daniel Pearce, South Korea’s Jiung Jeong and Australia’s Lincoln Tighe, are two shots back and tied for fourth.
Dou will be chasing Blizard Sunday as he seeks his third title of the season, while Blizard, who has made runs at Ping An Bank China Tour – PGA TOUR China Series’ titles on several occasions—most recently at the 2015 season-ending event in Dongguan, where he was runner-up—has yet to win.
“I like playing under pressure,” explained Blizard following his round. “I like that feeling, getting the heart going. That’s why we’re all playing golf, to get in that position on Sunday to try to win the golf tournament.”
Blizard has only played in the final grouping Sunday one other time, at the 2015 United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open. Blizard began the final round at that tournament a stroke behind leader Justin Shin. He shot an even-par 72 at Yishan Golf Club and finished third, four shots behind Shin. The 32-year-old from Sydney is expecting a different result this time around having learned from that experience.
Blizard began his third round Saturday having to take a free drop on No. 1 when his tee shot settled on a drain in the rough. His drop left him with a poor stance, and his second-shot approach was, as he described it, “almost a shank,” the ball landing in the deep rough. “I was lucky to find it,” Blizard added. “I made a good bogey. It wasn’t an ideal start, but I just forgot it after that and tried to play golf.”
While Blizard was getting his bogeys out of the way early (he also bogeyed No. 6 then was 4-under the rest of the way), the action, seemingly, for everybody else seemed to take place in the middle of the round.
Pearce began the day with a one-stroke lead and made two birdies and 10 pars through 12 holes. That wasn’t enough to hold off Dou, who began with seven consecutive pars then birdied No. 8, eagled No. 9 and birdied No. 10 to move into the lead. Back and forth the players went, with Pearce dropping down the leaderboard after a double bogey-6 at No. 13. Dou stumbled at that hole, as well, making the first of two consecutive bogeys before a birdie at No. 15 put him back in the lead. China’s Daxing Jin briefly held a share of the lead when he made four consecutive birdies (Nos. 7-10). Jin then fell back into seventh place with three back-nine bogeys. He’ll begin Sunday three strokes behind Blizard.
Watching all the late-round drama unfold was Tighe, a sometimes PGA TOUR China player who also has considerable experience on the PGA Tour of Australasia and, among other Tours, South Africa’s Sunshine Tour. Tighe finished his round much earlier than the leaders and enjoyed his vantage point of scoreboard watching.
Prior to this season, Tighe’s last PGA TOUR China start was a tie for 12th at the 2014 Earls Beijing Open two years ago this week. In his only other 2016 start, Tighe missed the cut at last week’s Cadillac Championship. Yet he is no stranger to victory, winning the 2014 New South Wales PGA Championship on PGA Tour of Australasia.
Saturday, Tighe used eight birdies to shoot a 6-under 66 to cruise up the leaderboard after starting the day tied for 15th.
“The greens are nice and soft, and that’s good for scoring. It gets pretty windy out on this course. If you can control your ball flight, you seem to go pretty well out here,” said the 26-year-old Tighe. He is only carrying a driver this week, opting for a 2-iron instead of a 3-wood. “I hit a few irons off the tee, where a lot of the guys hit driver. But I think if you keep it in play and give yourself birdie opportunities, you should go well around here.”
Tighe went especially well midway through his round, when four of his eight birdies came in succession, starting at No. 7, equaling what Jin did on those holes.
Matching Tighe’s 66 was Todd. He was bogey-free in his third round, while also posting six birdies. His claim to fame is he has yet to miss a cut in 14 career starts in China. What he hasn’t done is won. He would like to remedy that Sunday.
Weather: Fair and warm. High of 88. Wind SSW at 2-4 mph.
• Officials are predicting off-and-on rain showers for most of Sunday’s final round.
• For the third consecutive day, Indonesia’s Rory Hie eagled the par-5 12th hole. Hie is tied for 11th at 4-under with 18 holes to play.
• American Mark Baldwin has made all four cuts this season but has yet to record a top-10. The former University of Notre Dame golfer tied for 39th at the Henan Open, tied for 21st at the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open and was vying for a top-10 last week at the Cadillac Championship when he had to withdraw after his third consecutive under-par round due to injury. Through 54 holes this week, Baldwin, who has posted nine consecutive rounds at par or better, is tied for ninth. He’s five shots behind leader Rohan Blizard.
• Monday qualifier Garrett Sapp, twice a medalist in Monday events this season, is enjoying his best tournament of the year. He’s 3-under overall and tied for 15th with five others, including fellow Americans Casey O’Toole and Paul Imondi.
• China’s Huilin Zhang recovered nicely from a disappointing, 2-over 74 Friday with a 3-under 69 in the third round. Zhang is tied for 15th and is in position to pick up his third top-10 of the season with a strong final round.
• Canada’s Justin Shin is looking for his third consecutive top-10 of the season. After scores of 71-70-70, he’s tied for ninth. Last week at the Cadillac Championship, Shin was runner-up to runaway winner Alex Kang. At the United Investment Real Estate Wuhan Open two weeks ago, Shin tied for ninth. Shin has fired nine consecutive under-par rounds, his stroke average during this streak at 68.44 (3.56 strokes under par).
• China’s Daxing Jin continues a career resurgence. Alone in seventh with a round to play, Jin has played on the weekend in all four PGA TOUR China events this season, a tie for ninth in Wuhan two weeks ago his career-best performance. Jin, a native of Jilin, only made two cuts in 10 starts a year ago.
• Tianlang Guan and Yuxin Lin will battle for low-amateur honors this week. The two are both tied for 60th with a round to play.