November 18, 2006 – José Manuel Lara fended off all challengers on Saturday to stay on course for glory in the US$2 million UBS Hong Kong Open.
The Spaniard – seeking his maiden European Tour victory – remained firmly in control as he carded a four-under-par 66 in the third round at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling.
That gave him a total of 14-under 196 – two shots clear of his closest pursuer, Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines.
“At the moment I feel comfortable at the top,” said Lara, who has four runner-up finishes and three third places on the European Tour.
“I’m playing well, hitting the ball well and the putter is working. I’ve made a couple of good rounds.
“I don’t think tomorrow [Sunday] will be the hardest day, but you don’t know. I’ll try and do the same job as I’ve done so far.”
Gregory Bourdy of France carded a 69 to reach 10-under, four shots behind Lara, while Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez (66) and Thongchai Jaidee (67) of Thailand were on nine-under.
Lara, 29, admitted he knew little about Pagunsan but was familiar with the three Europeans.
“I know Bourdy and played with him today. Miguel and Thongchai I know very well and they are very good players. They will have to make a low score and wait for my mistakes. If I play the same way I played today, it will be a good day.
“Probably the only problem I could have tomorrow [Sunday] is myself. I’m five ahead of Miguel and two ahead of Pagunsan, who played in front of me today and played very well. You never know, he could have a good round and take the tournament. All I can do is try to do a good job.”
Lara was tied for the lead with India’s Jyoti Randhawa after the first round and has been out on his own in front since the halfway point.
“I’ve never led from first day to last but I have led going into the final round a couple of times,” he said.
“A round of golf is very long and you fall down sometimes. It depends on the shots you hit and the confidence. At the moment I feel OK. I’m just trying to play my golf and if the others can follow me, then good for them.”
Asian Tour rookie Pagunsan maintained his challenge with a 66. He stumbled at the par-four ninth with a double-bogey but rallied impressively with four birdies in a row from the 11th.
“I had an edgy start but it was a nice comeback, so it was a good round today,” said the 28-year-old. “I was going strong on the back nine. My putting this week has been really good.”
Bourdy began the day a shot behind Lara but his five birdies were offset by four bogeys as he failed to keep pace.
“Today I made too many bogeys,” he said. “I just have to eliminate the mistakes and keep on making birdies, then we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Former Chinese No.1 Zhang Lianwei failed to build on his spectacular second-round 63. A 70 in the third round left him in joint sixth on eight-under 202, six shots behind Lara.
Colin Montgomerie’s hopes of successfully defending his title effectively ended with an even-par 70 that left him on five-under 205.
Former US Open champion Michael Campbell – still hampered by an ankle injury – carded a 69 to stand on two-under 208.