Cabrera-Bello and Brazel set for final round head-to-head at UBS Hong Kong Open
Rafa Cabrera-Bello battled to a level par 70 on day three of the UBS Hong Kong Open to head into the final round with a share of the lead alongside Sam Brazel.
The Spaniard entered Saturday with a three-shot lead over his Australian playing partner and he extended that to five on the front nine but three bogeys in four holes before the turn and a double-bogey on the 14th saw him lose the lead for the first time since midday on Thursday.
Brazel turned in 34 and three birdies on the back nine had in him in front but birdies on the 15th and 17th kept Cabrera-Bello’s hopes of a wire-to-wire victory alive.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood was two shots behind the leaders at nine under, with American David Lipsky a further shot back at Hong Kong Golf Club.
David Howell had equalled the course record before the leaders evened teed off with a 63 to get to seven under which saw him end the day alongside Andrew Dodt and Justin Walters in a tie for fifth.
A win for Cabrera-Bello would cap off an excellent 2016 that has seen the 32 year old make an undefeated Ryder Cup debut and finish eighth on the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex without missing a single cut.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello: “Today, my score had all colours of the rainbow in it! There’s been a lot of positives and a lot of negatives. I got off to a good start after the bogey on the first with birdies on two, three and five was what I was looking for. But then silly bogeys on six and seven ruined the tone of the day a little bit. I was trying to find a stable day where I was just playing solid like I had these past two days. But the best thing, is I’m still in it. I’m still leading. Of course it would have been nicer to have a few to spare but I still would have needed to play great tomorrow and I’m still in a position.
“What’s going to win tomorrow? I don’t know. Sam and I have a say in it – if either of us play good, the others are going to struggle a bit, but then there’s a couple guys, I think Tommy and David perhaps, just two and four shots back, they could have a say. I don’t know, it could be 12 under; it could be 16, so within that range.”
Sam Brazel: “That was fun out there. I started a little nervous on the first but I guess that’s the situation you’re in. I felt the nerves a little bit at lunch time, but just sort of grinded it out and it was fun out there. We all get a bit nervous from time to time. It’s good to have nerves I think. I won’t speculate on what it would mean for me to win. I’ll just go play one shot at a time and see what happens. I’ll try and control the nerves a little better than I did today. Just try to go out there and enjoy the atmosphere of it all and just take it all in. It’s been fun.”
Tommy Fleetwood: “It would be great to win tomorrow obviously. I haven’t won for a long time and it almost feels like I have had a year out of the game because I was playing dreadful from mid-2015 to the middle of this year. I’ve sort of been on a path since August, if you like, getting my game back. I was just playing dreadful. Just rubbish. My game’s been coming back and I’ve had some good results towards the end of the year.
“I went back to my old coach and I’ve had one of my best mates on the bag since July. Things have just turned around. I’ve worked hard. We had to make some changes and we had to put a lot of hours into it, and sometimes when you’re doing it all and you’re shooting 78 in first round of The Open, you just think, what’s the point? But it began to show, and I’ve been having a nice time on the course. Like I say, caddie and coach have made the biggest difference and I’ve been enjoying my job again.”
Source: European Tour (Press Release)
Photo: Getty Images