Brandt Snedeker went within inches of achieving golf’s magical 59 when he missed a 15-footer for birdie on the final hole during a thrilling third day of the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions event.
The American instead had to be satisfied with a course-record 60 – a shot better off than Englishman Lee Westwood, who shot a scintillating 11-under-par 61 for a share of the lead at Mission Hills in China.
Although Snedeker shot the lowest, Westwood was the day’s biggest winner.
The 39-year-old from Worksop had an unblemished third round of 11 birdies and and soared up the leaderboard from 12th to joint first, with he and South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, three shots clear of nearest challenger, American Phil Mickelson.
The Ryder Cup star set his stall out with birdies at the first three holes and he did not look back.
His putting was in good fettle and he looked in control all the way round. The world No.4 then saw overnight pacesetter Oosthuizen add a late touch of drama when he missed a chance to go back out in front on the last, leaving the pair locked on 18 under.
In the absence – much to the chagrin of the sponsors and organisers – of the world’s top two, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, Oosthuizen had led by five going into the third day, but a sluggish display with the putter cost him dear.
He had several near misses on his way around and things were summed up by his penultimate shot of the day when a 15-footer on the last would have given him a one-shot lead heading into today. He missed by an inch.
The same fate befell Snedeker, who looked set to go sub-60 when he approached the 18th, only to pull up just short.
Scotland’s Paul Lawrie is well off the pace on four under after a level-par 72. He wrote on his blog on www.paullawriegolf.com: “I played really good today but putted awful. I missed ten putts inside 15 feet.
“I drove the ball especially good, hitting every fairway and pretty long but, incredibly, I shot 72 level par which is hard to believe. Scoring is very good today which makes it even more frustrating.”
Fellow Scot Richie Ramsay also had a 72 but the damage had already been done in his first round of 78 and he is on five over par.
South African Ernie Els briefly snagged a share of the lead yesterday but undid his hard work when he found the water on the 15th, taking a double bogey. He finished with a 69 and on 14 under, along with American Bill Haas and England’s Ian Poulter.
Snedeker, a shot further back, said: “I was disappointed not to shoot 59. In a career you might only get a couple of chances to do it.
“When I made eagle at the 15th the idea of shooting 59 came to me but I knew I needed to make birdie at the last three holes.”