India's Gaurav Ghei is in prime position to lift his second successive Asian Tour title after pulling two shots clear in the weather-hit Macau Open on Saturday.
Ghei, winner of last month's Pine Valley Beijing Open, was ahead of the chasing pack on 11-under-par for the US $300,000 tournament through 11 holes of his third round when relentless rain at Macau Golf and Country Club forced the suspension of play.
Only 10 players finished their third rounds while the remaining 57 players in the field will return on Sunday, 7am to complete their remaining holes.
China's Liang Wen-chong was pushing hard for his second victory of the season by moving to nine-under-par for the tournament after negotiating 14 holes of his third round in four-under.
Liang, ranked second on the Asian Tour's UBS Order of Merit, was tied with Chinese Taipei veteran Lu Wen-teh, who shot three birdies in 12 holes and second round leader Richard Moir of Australia, who was one-over through 11 holes.
Thai star Thaworn Wiratchant is eight-under for the tournament while defending champion Kane Webber of Australia is four strokes off the lead after playing 15 holes of his third round in five under and was tied with two-time Macau Open winner Zhang Lian-wei of China.
Ghei was delighted to find himself atop the leaderboard of the 10th Macau Open, thanks to a blistering outward nine with four birdies. He rolled in lengthy putts for birdies to pull clear of the field.
"I had a really good start and it was unfortunate that we had to sit out for the rain to go away. I'm pretty happy with the way I'm playing but it's still a long way to go," he said.
Luck favoured the Indian when a wayward drive on the second hole escaped the water hazard and he went on to birdie the hole.
"I got lucky on two when I pushed my driver right but I hit it solid that it carried the hazard.
"From making a bogey, I turned that into a birdie. Then I holed a 15 footer on six and holed a 40 footer on eight and then another 25 footer on nine," said Ghei, who was on the 12th fairway when play was suspended at 1.40pm, and eventually called off for the day.
In an attempt to complete 72 holes on Sunday, organisers will retain the pairings for the final round so that the players will go straight out after completing their third rounds.
Ghei knows that the tenacious Liang will be hot on his heels.
"Yes for sure but it's not just Liang as there are so many good players. I'm just going out to play my game and try to not think that I have the lead," said Ghei.
A top-10 finish in Macau will see Liang displace Anton Haig of South Africa at the top of the UBS Order of Merit but the 28-year-old Chinese is thinking of a bigger prize. Liang made his move with successive birdies on 12 and 13 but his title charge was halted by the inclement weather when he was on the 15th fairway.
"All I have to do is play the way I have been playing. I wouldn't like it if we can't finish 72 holes. If we can't then I'll have to try to get as many birdies as I can over my remaining holes," said Liang.
"Gaurav is obviously in form. I played with him in the opening two rounds and I think he's got a good chance. He's in his peak condition right now and he's not making any serious mistakes which is good in these tough conditions."
Veteran Lu used a chip-in birdie on the eighth to launch into contention on a course which reminds him of Santiburi Samui where he won the Bangkok Airways Open in 2005.
"This course is so unpredictable that you have to be very careful. I've played this tournament from the very start in 1998 and I know it well. The course suits my style as we have similar strong winds in Taipei. It's not a long course and I hit it quite straight, so that is an advantage," said Lu.
Webber won't be complaining if Sunday's play is held under rainy conditions as he won under similar conditions 12 months ago. After starting the day eight off the pace, Webber gave himself a shot at a successful defence by going five under through 15 holes to stand at seven-under for the tournament.
The lanky Aussie said he worked on his posture in his hotel room last night and reaped the rewards. "I was that far back that I had to do something to get going today," said Webber. "I felt like my posture was out and I did a bit of work in the mirror in the hotel room last night and found a couple of things and it felt a lot better today."
Leading third round scores
-11: Gaurav GHEI (IND) thru 11 holes
-9: LU Wen-teh (TPE) thru 12
-9: Richard MOIR (AUS) thru 11
-9: LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) thru 14
-8: Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) thru 15
-7: Kane WEBBER (AUS) thru 15
-7: Scott STRANGE (AUS) thru 12
-7: Gurbaaz MANN (IND) thru 12
-7: ZHANG Lian-wei CHN thru 11