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Lee Westwood sees his lead slip to four shots at Thailand Golf Championship

Westwood sees his lead slip to four shots as Schwartzel cranks up the pressure in Thailand

Lee Westwood saw his huge advantage in the inaugural Thailand Golf Championship reduced to four shots following the third round on Saturday, with South African Charl Schwartzel leading the chasing pack with a second successive 66.

Westwood had boasted an 11-stroke lead at the start of the day but he could not continue his stunning form as he carded a disappointing one-over-par 73 at the Amata Spring Country Club to slip back to 19 under for the tournament.

That allowed Schwartzel to significantly close on the Englishman after he recorded another round of 66.

Keep calm and carry on: Lee Westwood takes a four shot lead into the final round of the Thailand Golf Championship

Keep calm and carry on: Lee Westwood takes a four shot lead into the final round of the Thailand Golf Championship

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Westwood had made the first 60 of his career on day one and then followed it up with a similarly impressive 64 yesterday, but the Worksop golfer found it much tougher going today.

After not dropping a single shot in the opening two rounds, he suffered a bogey on the par-five second. He also bogeyed the sixth but birdies at the fourth, 11th and 15th saw Westwood heading for another sub-par round.

However, the 38-year-old then dropped further shots at both the 16th and 17th before closing with a par.

While Westwood, whose round was the worst of the 17 leading players, struggled to replicate his earlier success, Schwartzel took up the charge in stunning fashion.

This year’s Masters winner downed four successive birdies from the second hole and then added three more on the back nine.

It might have been an even better day for the South African but he bogeyed the par-four 18th – his only dropped shot of the round.

Focused: Charl Schwartzel is closing in on Westwood

Focused: Charl Schwartzel is closing in on Westwood

Three shots behind Schwartzel in third place on the leaderboard was American Michael Thompson after his 69, with Dutchman Guido Van der Valk two shots further back on 10 under.

England’s Simon Dyson is fifth on nine under while former Asian Tour number one Jyoti Randhawa of India is sixth on eight under following his round of 65.

Westwood said: “(I had) a few bad breaks…if you had offered me a four-shot lead on Thursday morning I would have taken it.

“After a 60 and 64, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the third round but like I said, a four-shot lead into the last round is a good position to be in. It drains you (to be leading) but it’s a better position to be leading obviously other than to chase.

“Today, Charl had the momentum and I was fighting against it. It’s not the easiest golf course here. I’ll just go out and focus on my own game and shoot another low score.”

In contention: Englishman Simon Dyson is currently fifth on the leaderboard

In contention: Englishman Simon Dyson is currently fifth on the leaderboard

Although he is still trailing by four, Schwartzel believes he now has a chance of victory – something that looked unlikely 24 hours ago.

The South African said: “At least there’s light at the end of the tunnel now. Four shots is not much out there.

“I’ve been playing really well and I can shoot a low score on this golf course. I felt I should have shot a 63 (today).

“I’ve won about two or three tournaments where I was four shots behind. I’ve done it before. You sort of know that you have to play well and there are no doubts in your mind.”

He added: “You can sense when the tides are turning. I’m making four birdies in a row and he is not getting anything at all. You can sense that all of a sudden it has changed. The lead is getting shorter and shorter and it has to affect you. You won’t be human if it doesn’t.”

Lee Westwood leads Thailand Golf Championship

Wonderful Westwood fires best round of career to lead after sizzling 60 in Thailand

Lee Westwood shot a magnificent 12-under-par 60 – the best round of his career – to establish a five-shot lead on the opening day of the Thailand Golf Championship.

The Englishman carded 10 birdies and an eagle at the Amata Spring Country Club with American John Daly his closest challenger after a 65.

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and home hope Thaworn Wiratchant were joint third, eight shots behind Westwood.

Flying start: Lee Westwood fired a superb 60 in his opening round in Thailand

Flying start: Lee Westwood fired a superb 60 in his opening round in Thailand

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The world No 3 set the tone for his round with a blistering start, birdies at one, three, four and five sandwiching an eagle at the par-five second.

He picked up another shot at the seventh to reach the turn in 29 and a further five birdies coming home maintained his momentum.

Despite his brilliance, Westwood could not hide his disappointment at not dipping below 60 – a fabled mark for any golfer.

He said: “I just wanted to get off to a quick start and I did that. I made a dream start and you start thinking about 59, I guess.

Challenging: John Daly is on his own in second place behind Westwood

Challenging: John Daly is on his own in second place behind Westwood

“I came close but not close enough. I messed it up with a few pars. I missed on 11 from about 10 feet, left it short, and at 14 I left it short in the middle but you can”t shoot 60 without making a few 15-20 footers and I did that today so no complaints.

“I guess 59 is one of those numbers where if it is meant to be it is meant to be.”

Westwood”s round was even more remarkable given the tricky wind in Chonburi.

“It”s not really a 60 course,” he added. “It was a bit breezy out there.

At the right end: Simon Dyson can be pleased with his opening 69

At the right end: Simon Dyson can be pleased with his opening 69

“(Caddie) Billy (Foster) said he thought he had seen the best round of golf ever when I shot 62 at the Nedbank a few weeks ago but he said that was better today, so I am making progress.

“I have shot a few 61s and 62s but never a 60 so I will have to refocus on Friday morning and start all over again.”

Daly too can be pleased with his efforts. The controversial 45-year-old birdied the first and the ninth in a steady opening but then blitzed the back nine, with three more birdies and an eagle on the 11th.

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel led a group of players on three under which included Yorkshireman Simon Dyson while Open champion Darren Clarke carded a one-under 71.

Luke Donald tops European Tour money list as Rory McIlroy falls short in Dubai

He”s in the money! Donald makes history as rival McIlroy falls short in Dubai

Luke Donald has became the first man to win the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season.

Donald was still on the Earth course in Dubai when Rory McIlroy, his only remaining challenger on the European circuit, failed to achieve the win he needed to keep the race alive.

Even then, England”s world No 1 was odds-on to add the title to his PGA Tour crown. He required a top-nine finish and was joint fourth with four to play.

Catch me if you can: Donald (left) has topped the European Tour

Catch me if you can: Donald (left) has topped the European Tour”s money list

McIlroy has been tired and drained after suffering with a viral infection and he said this had simply been a tournament too far at the end of a hectic schedule of playing events.

“I couldn”t get anything going when I needed to. I played a nine-hole stretch, the last two on Friday and the first seven on Saturday, in five over. That”s where the tournament got away from me,” McIlroy said after closing on 279, nine under.

The world No 2 also said he would be skipping next week”s Thailand Golf Championship, the last event of the season on the Asian Tour.

Step too far: Rory McIlroy was unable to stop Donald winning the money list

Step too far: Rory McIlroy was unable to stop Donald winning the money list

“I can”t wait to have a few weeks off,” added McIlroy. “People telling you what to do and where to go.

“Another flight, more sleeping patterns messed up. Next week would have been a big struggle too.

“The doctor told me last night that no matter how bad I”m feeling now I”d be even worse if I played next week.”

Race to Dubai: Difference between Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy could be 3.55

The difference between Donald and McIlroy Just 3.55 (or the cost of a golf ball!)

Between them they have earned over 6million on the European Tour this season and fortunes more away from the course.

Yet there is still a chance that Luke Donald could pip Rory McIlroy to the Race to Dubai money list title by just 3.55 – less than the cost of a golf ball – on Sunday.

McIlroy has to win the race-ending Dubai World Championship to keep his hopes alive and after an opening six-under-par 66, the 22-year-old US Open champion is in third place, two behind Swede Peter Hanson.

Final showdown: Donald and Mcilroy are neck and neck in Dubai

Final showdown: Donald and Mcilroy are neck and neck in Dubai

Donald, with the PGA Tour number one spot in America already in the bag, needs a top-nine finish to make sure of an unprecedented double and following a disappointing 72 he returned to the Earth course today in joint 26th position.

If McIlroy does win on Sunday and Donald is in a two-way tie for ninth, their respective earnings would be 3,430,138 and 3,430,141 – the tightest finish ever.

The Northern Ireland youngster has the momentum after winning the Hong Kong Open last Sunday with a closing 65.

He is still operating at less than full fitness, but said: “To be honest, I”m sort of using it to my advantage in a way.

“It”s sort of taken the pressure off me. I”m not 100 per cent and if it doesn”t happen it doesn”t happen and there”s nothing I can do about it.

“You can just go about your game and try and play as well as you can.
I definitely don”t feel invincible, but I feel like every time I tee it up I”ve got a good chance of shooting a good score.

Rough stuff: Donald endured a difficult first round at the Jumeirah Golf Estates

Rough stuff: Donald endured a difficult first round at the Jumeirah Golf Estates

“I don”t think I”ve finished outside the top four since the US PGA (eight events ago – or 10 if you add a couple of four-man events) and everything seems sort of stress-free.

“It”s not going to last forever, I”m sure. I”m sure there”s going to be a point where I struggle, but right now it”s nice to have that feeling.”

Donald was leading his only remaining challenger by three when he turned in 33, but he had to take penalty drops after driving into bushes on successive holes and then had a third bogey in a row.

“I felt very much in control and then I lost it,” Donald said. “But this is two shots better than the first round last year and I still finished ninth. You”ve got to find the positives.”