Rory McIlroy looks likely to retain his Race to Dubai lead heading into next week’s DP World Tour Championship as Danny Willett and Justin Rose fail to capitalise on the world No 3’s absence at the BMW Masters in Shanghai.
McIlroy chose not to play this week, leaving himself vulnerable to his nearest challengers, but Willett, who is second in the standings, produced a third-round 70 which left him in a tie for 27th place. That would leave the Englishman just 3,900 points short of being able to leapfrog McIlroy ahead of the season-ending tournament in Dubai.
Rose had an improved five-under 67 which took him to 10-under for the tournament, five off the lead, but the world No 6 needs to finish at least second on Sunday to knock McIlroy off his perch at the top of the standings.
At the top of the leaderboard, Thongchai Jaidee holds a one shot lead heading into the final round a third-round 66.
The ex-Thai army paratrooper, who turned 46 earlier this week, started with a birdie blitz at Lake Malaren and then held on to his lead at 15-under as several of the biggest names in the game charged up the leaderboard on a day of low scoring.
Thongchai was three behind the overnight leader Lucas Bjerregaard at the start of play in Shanghai but quickly wiped out the deficit with five birdies to go to the turn in 31.
Denmark’s Bjerregaard had a two-under 70 and lies tied second alongside Spain’s Sergio Garcia (67) and South Korea’s An Byeong-Hun (66) on 14 under par in the $7 million (Dh25.7m) flagship event.
“I have pretty good confidence after winning in Germany (at the European Open in September),” Thongchai said.
“I’m going to play my own game and look forward to things tomorrow.”
Saturday is known as moving day as players try to score low and put themselves in position for an assault on the title in the final round on Sunday. A gaggle of big names did just that in the third round.
US Ryder Cup player Patrick Reed, who tied seventh in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan last week, shot an eight-under 64 to move to 12-under par, in a tie for sixth place just three back of Thongchai.
“I would think I would have to go shoot probably around close to the same number I just did to have a chance to win,” said Reed after his round.
Also 12-under is Sweden’s world No 3 - and back-toback DP World Tour champion - Henrik Stenson, who shot a superb bogey-free 65, plus the English trio of Ian Poulter (68), Paul Casey (68) and Ross Fisher (67).
“To have any chance, given similar conditions tomorrow, I need to shoot seven- or eight-under I think,” Stenson said.
Belgium’s Thomas Pieters was another to put himself in the mix with a stunning round of nine-under 63, the best of the week, to move to 11-under for the tournament.
Kristoffer Broberg nearly matched Pieters after an eagle three at the seventh ignited a sparkling run of 10 holes played in nine-under par.
But the Swede dropped his only shot at the short 17th after missing the green and he finished with 64 to lie fifth on 13 under for the tournament.
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