| Jose Manuel Lara of Spain after scoring a birdie on the 17th hole during the third round of the Hong Kong Open on Saturday. (Reuters)
Hong Kong: Battling strong winds and a troubled wrist, Jeev Milkha Singh kept himself in contention for an impressive finish at the $2 million UBS Hong Kong Open on Saturday.
Jeev is well placed for a finish that could help him seal the UBS Asian Tour Order of Merit this week. He carded a one-under 69 that kept him at tied sixth spot with Jyoti Randhawa (69) after three rounds.
Gaurav Ghei (69) was tied 46th and Rahil Gangjee (71) was 55th. Swede of Indian origin Daniel Chopra carded a three-under 67 and moved to tied 27th, up from overnight 43rd.
Jeev and Randhawa are six shots behind leader Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara.
On Saturday, Lara shot a flawless 66 with two birdies and was placed two clear of Filipino rookie Juvic Pagunsan (66).
Jeev, who leads the Order of Merit race by over $118,000 from Prom Meesawat, is not writing off his chances.
“You never know in this game. If I have a good start tomorrow, you never know. If I take it low, maybe there’s a chance. I am feeling good, swinging it well and rolling it good,” he said.
For the second day running, Jeev ran into trouble early and bogeyed the first. Once again he recovered that on the third. He bogeyed the par-3 12th, but birdies on the 13th and 16th saw him come back under-par for a 69, following rounds of 66 and 67 on first two days.
The right wrist injury is a worry, but Jeev is gritting his teeth like a true champion. “I’m worried about my wrist. It is not so good. But I’ve got to keep going. There’s pain especially when I try to hit a spin shot by digging into the ground, that’s when it hurts. I’m trying to compensate out there.”
Randhawa had a great start with two birdies on second and third. But after that he dropped shots on the seventh and 15th and finally sank one last birdie on the 18th for his second successive 69.
Defending champion Colin Montgomerie shot a par 70 and was tied 19th at five-under, nine shots behind the leader.
Tomorrow, the race for the Order of Merit crown could take some interesting twists. Rookie Pagunsan and two-time Asian Tour No. 1 Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand threw their hats in with rounds of 66 and 67, respectively. Jaidee is five shots off the lead.
Presently ranked eighth on the Order of Merit, Jaidee needs to finish second or better to challenge Jeev for the crown at the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok next month.