England's David Lynn survived a brutal day at the US$1.8 million Volvo China Open as he clung on to his overnight one-stroke lead with a battling even-par 72 in the third round on Saturday
Strong winds that blew up to 35mph pounded the Beijing Honghua International Golf Club and affected most of the leading players but Lynn was rock steady as he put himself in sight of a second career title with his three-day total of nine-under-par 207.
India's Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished his round nearly three hours before the last pairing came in, produced the day's best of 67 as he charged into tied second place alongside Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, who fired a gutsy 72 which included six birdies, two bogeys and a brace of double bogeys.
The tournament's top draw and title holder Paul Casey kept up his hopes with a well-earned 70 for tied fourth place with Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and enters Sunday's final round just two behind his compatriot.
Lynn, winner of the 2004 KLM Open in the Netherlands, was delighted to maintain pole position in the co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour.
"Every hole out there was tough," said the 32-year-old. "I just had to hang on and commit to every shot and I'm very pleased with level par."
With swirling winds throwing players off balance, Lynn knew he had a battle. He turned in one-under but an errant approach into water on 11 saw him run up a double bogey, only for him to bounce straight back with three birdies on the trot. However, the Englishman dropped shots on 15 and 18 to set up an intriguing final day.
"Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully I can get the same sort of feelings when I go out there," said Lynn.
The 34-year-old Singh, a four-time Asian Tour winner but not since 1999, took full advantage of his earlier start as he picked up five birdies against a lone three-putt bogey. He endured the brunt of the blustery conditions on his back nine, and saw a TV tower topple.
"It was like a twister or a mini tornado which knocked this tower down. I thought the players behind us would get flown into the water as these guys were just holding their hats and pushing themselves down," said Singh, who will play in the final pairing with Lynn.
Singh has been frustrated in recent times as his last taste of success was seven years ago. He came close at the Pakistan Open in January but settled for his seventh career second-place finish. The Indian has put in extra focus on his pre-shot routine and reading mind-improvement books -- his favourite is "Power of the Subconscious Mind" by Joseph Murphy -- has helped in his mental approach.
"When I wake up in the morning, I remind myself of a few things which makes me feel good about myself and my game. There's been a lot of frustration. There have been tournaments that I would have liked to win and lost instead. Maybe I have put too much pressure trying to win. Maybe instead of focussing on my routine, I focussed on winning which was wrong.
"My game is much better, it's coming together. This is a game that you have try on every single shot. If you give up, you have no chance. I'm going to go out there and give it a shot and if it happens, great. If not, there's always another week," said Singh.
Prayad, winner of the Volvo China Open in 1996, jostled for the lead with Lynn all day. He turned in 34 with four birdies against two bogeys despite the tough conditions but struggled home, finding water twice for double bogeys on the 11th and 18th holes.
"I tried to stay in control and I thought I could still do it. On 18, I tried to fade it right but the wind came and it was unbelievable as the wind carried my three wood tee shot into water. I aimed the ball well right but after 100 yards, the ball went left (into water) very quickly. It was tough," said Prayad.
With compatriots Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant having won European Tour-sanctioned events, Prayad is keen to join the elite club. But he is counting on better weather on Sunday. "If it's fair, I'll have a chance. I'll try to control two things, my driver and putting. I need to keep performing well with the putter. I'm expecting only top-five but if I can play better and have some luck, I may have a chance to win."
Ryder Cup stalwart Casey, looking to become the first man to retain the Volvo China Open crown, carved out a round that included three birdies and a lone bogey and then termed his day as "quite a lot of fun."
"It was tough out there. But it sorted the men out from the boys but that is why we play. It is a challenge and definitely like a links wind," said Casey.
Last year, he started the final day five back and won in a play-off and naturally, Casey is ready to pounce being only two behind this time. "I have to be aggressive, especially with David at the top. He hasn't backed down. I'm in a better position than this time last year and I'm happy with that."
Leading third round scores:
207 - David Lynn (ENG) 68-67-72
208 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 72-69-67, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 69-67-72
209 - Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (ESP) 67-74-68, Paul Casey (ENG) 71-68-70
210 - Peter Fowler (AUS) 71-70-69, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 70-71-69, Simon Wakefield (ENG) 67-73-70
211 - Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA) 72-68-71, Jarrod Lyle (AUS) 68-71-72
212 - Stephen Gallacher (SCO) 73-70-69, Soren Hansen (DEN) 72-70-70, Miles Tunnicliff (ENG) 68-74-70, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 71-70-71, Wang Ter-chang (TPE) 69-72-71, Peter Hanson (SWE) 67-72-73, Simon Dyson (ENG) 67-72-73
213 - Peter Lawrie (IRL) 71-70-72, Jose Filipe Lima (POR) 67-69-77
214 - Peter O'Malley (AUS) 72-72-70, Richard Sterne (RSA) 72-72-70, Prom Meesawat (THA) 71-72-71, Nick Dougherty (ENG) 72-70-72, Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 72-70-72, Gary Emerson (ENG) 71-70-73, Ross Fisher (ENG) 67-73-74
215 - Brett Rumford (AUS) 69-75-71, Gregory Havret (FRA) 71-72-72, Damien Mcgrane (IRL) 72-70-73, Jean Van De Velde (FRA) 74-68-73, Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 72-70-73, Jason Knutzon (USA) 70-71-74, Jamie Spence (ENG) 70-71-74, Henrik Stenson (SWE) 73-68-74, Barry Lane (ENG) 72-68-75, Terry Pilkadaris (AUS) 72-67-76, Nico Van Rensburg (RSA) 75-64-76.