Snedeker, Westwood make their moves in China

Lee Westwood looks at a putt during Round 3 of the HSBC Champions.

Lee Westwood looks at a putt during Round 3 of the HSBC Champions.

DONGGUAN, China – Brandt Snedeker and Lee Westwood scorched the Olazabal course at Mission Hills on Saturday, shooting 60 and 61, respectively, on “moving day” at the HSBC Champions.

For Snedeker, the recent FedEx Cup champion, his round came as the first off on the front nine and included 10 birdies and an eagle – 6-under 30 on each side – before coming up just short on the 18th hole to record the first 59 in European Tour history.

“I knew I was playing well, and I was having a really good round and then I eagled 15 and I thought, Well, wait a second; if I birdie the last three, I can shoot 59,” Snedeker said of his mind-set over the closing holes. “A lot of fun on 18, getting the nerves going again but disappointed not to birdie the last hole but still, great round.”

It was the 16th 60 in European Tour history, but for Snedeker it was his lowest round ever as a professional. Before Saturday, the Vanderbilt product had shot two 61s in PGA Tour competition: in 2011 at The Barclays and in 2007 at the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.

“When I get going low, I know it doesn’t happen very often, I’m not afraid to start going low,” Snedeker said. “I know when you have these days, you need to go as low as you possibly can. They don’t come around very often. No reason to be nervous or scared.”

The 12-under score moved him from a tie for 38th place and 15 shots off the pace of leader Louis Oosthuizen to seventh place at 13 under, five shots off of joint leaders Oosthuizen and Westwood.

“Just showed today I can do it,” Snedeker said. “Had a lot of putts in the first two rounds; played pretty good the first two rounds and made nothing. Made a lot today and hopefully make a lot more tomorrow.”

Westwood moved into the lead with his 11-under 61 that included 11 birdies, four over the last five holes.

“I just wanted to come out fast and try to get some momentum,” Westwood said. “That’s just been missing from my game the last couple of weeks. I came out as quick as you like, with three birdies, and that got me going, and the hole started to look bigger.”

It was Westwood’s third 61 on the European Tour (2007 Mercedes-Benz Champions and 1998 Deutsche Bank Champions of Europe).

Westwood also posted a 60 on the Asian Tour, at last year’s Thailand Golf Championship.

Now he is in position to win the biggest event of his career and his first World Golf Championship title, just two weeks before the European Tour finale in Dubai.

‘Frustrating’ day for the leader: Thirty-six-hole leader Louis Oosthuizen never really got it going in Saturday’s third round as his five-shot lead eroded. He posted a 2-under 70 and is tied with Lee Westwood at 198, three shots ahead of American Phil Mickelson.

“Frustrating,” Oosthuizen said of his round on Saturday. “Early I didn’t play really well and then started to find a little bit of form on the back nine, but just didn’t make any putts.”

Oosthuizen’s success with the hallway lead has been spotless: 4 for 4. Now that he enters the final round tied for the lead, the South African has made things a bit more difficult than he had hoped.

“It’s going to be tough,” the 2010 Open Championship winner said. “Playing with Phil and Lee – and it’s not just the two of them – but it will be a great challenge. “

Ian Poulter (65), Bill Haas (66) and Ernie Els (69) are another shot behind Mickelson, tied for fifth at 202.

For Mickelson a birdie at the last hole jumped him into the final group and gives him a bird’s-eye view of what he needs to do on Sunday to capture his third HSBC Champions trophy.

“Tomorrow, I’ll have to capitalize more and make more birdies to catch these guys,” Mickelson said. “But I feel like I’m playing well enough to do it. Today, I just wanted to go play a solid round and try to shoot something low-to-mid-60s to get myself in position for tomorrow, because Louis did not run away. There’s a number of guys that have good chance if they can have a hot round tomorrow, myself included. “

The digit is OK: Graeme McDowell was able to play the third round Saturday, though he needed a bandage on the ring finger of the right hand.

The 2010 U.S. Open champion slammed his hotel door on the finger when leaving Friday for the second round. Instead of using his standard interlocking grip, he used more of a baseball-style grip to swing the club.

“I was actually able to hit some shots today,” McDowell said after a 4-under 68. “Emergency averted. I got lucky.”

When he went to the range in the morning, McDowell was concerned – so concerned that he was 50-50 to even play. But once he started hitting shots, the finger felt better.

“Going out yesterday morning, I was a pretty worried man,” said McDowell, who is out of contention entering the final round at 2-under 214. “If I had to play baseball (grip) today, I wasn’t going to play, but I surprised myself how far I’d come since yesterday.”

Scoring minutiae: In Friday’s second round, Japan’s Kenichi Kuboya shot an 83, largely due to a quintuple-bogey 10 on the par-5 15th hole. A day later, Kuboya shot a 6-under 66 over the same golf course.

But countryman Yuta Ikeda was not as lucky. Coming to the par-4 18th hole at 1 under for the tournament, Ikeda promptly made an 11 and recorded an 82 on a day when the scoring average was 70.091.

Time for a change: Geoff Ogilvy has had the same caddie, Alistair “Squirrel” Matheson, for the last 13 years, but starting this week in China, the 2006 U.S. Open champion has a new bag totter.

“It’s not because any job wasn’t getting done properly. It’s just it was kind of time,” Ogilvy said of the split that occurred after the BMW Championship in Indianapolis. “That’s really the only way I can describe it. It’s not like I didn’t think he was doing a great job anymore. It’s just he kind of – he would be excited about doing something else and I’d probably get excited about having someone else on the bag.”

Ogilvy said the split had been coming for the last year or two, and described the relationship as many have to a marriage that eventually runs its course.

Long-time Tour caddie Matthew Tritton, know as Bussy, is now on Ogilvy’s bag. The tall blond-haired Australian has caddied for Aussie Robert Allenby, American Matt Kuchar, German Marcel Siem and most recently American Cameron Tringale.

After 13 years, Ogilvy knows it will be an adjustment period with Tritton.

“Squirrel is an amazing caddie,” Ogilvy said. “He knows the game probably as well as anybody who plays or caddies. He really knows the game really well, and you get used to the way the guy delivers his numbers and you know what he’s thinking without him telling you, and you kind of have that telepathy thing like you do with your wife, kind of. There’s an adjustment. Sometimes that’s sort of fun. It’s like the new-putter thing. It’s fun to adjust to something new.”

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