SHENZHEN: Benjamin Hebert of France carded a “crazy” back nine in 28 shots on Saturday to seize control of the 25th Volvo China Open in Shenzhen as overnight leader Wu Ashun wobbled.
The Frenchman, who had started on nine-under after his first two rounds, seemed out of sorts as he reached the turn in level par for the day after a bogey at the ninth and was six shots adrift of Wu.
But three birdies in the next four holes moved him up the leaderboard before a spectacular birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie finish saw him open a three-stroke advantage at Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen.
“That’s golf. What a crazy game!” he told AFP. “I played very badly in the front nine. I didn’t feel very well in my swing.
“I just tried to keep focused on what I’m doing and I found my rhythm so I’m happy.”
The best-of-the-week round of eight-under 64 took the 32-year-old to 17-under par for the tournament.
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen, who shot 65, and last week’s Morocco winner Jorge Campillo (68) are sharing second on 14-under.
“I have been patient, I was patient all day today and I’ll try to keep up tomorrow,” said Korhonen. “It might be a wet day so patience will be the key once again.”
In-form Campillo won on the European Tour for the first time a week ago and is firmly in the hunt for back-to-back triumphs.
“I hope to use my experience from last week to win,” Campillo said. “But if Benjamin plays like he did today, then it’s tough. Hopefully I have a chance.”
Hebert will seek his maiden European Tour victory when he goes out in the final group with Korhonen and Campillo at 9:21am Sunday in an early start forced by the threat of storms later in the day.
“It’s my first time leading after 54 holes and we’ll see,” said Hebert. “It’s going to be a very early start so hopefully we’ll have some good conditions.”
Wu’s hunt for a second Volvo China Open crown had started brilliantly with a tap-in birdie after almost holing his approach shot to the first.
He made further gains at the eighth and the 10th and at that stage looked untouchable as his lead extended to four shots.
But a wayward tee shot on the par-three 12th produced his first blemish when he failed to get up and down and it precipitated a run of four consecutive bogeys as his lead evaporated to the groans of the huge home galleries tracking his every move.
“I don’t understand how I got those four bogeys,” said Wu. “I hit some really bad tee shots, making it tough for myself to save par after that.”
Wu did birdie 16 and is still in the hunt after a level-par third round 72 left him on 13-under, four behind Hebert.
Former Ryder Cup star Victor Dubuisson has sole possession of fifth after a third successive 68 took him to 12 under par.
The Frenchman will go out in the penultimate threeball on Sunday alongside Wu and Spain’s Nacho Elvira who is on 11 under.
Shenzhen schoolboy Kuang Yang made headlines on Friday as he became the second youngest player in European Tour history to make the cut.
And the 14-year-old amateur followed up his two opening rounds of 71 with a 69 to be five-under par after three rounds.
Another home hero, the world number 39 Li Haotong, recovered from a sloppy 73 on day two with a fine 66 that got him to 10-under.