Hend flies high with eagles to lead Lahiri by 3 shots at Venetian Macao Open

ANIRBAN LAHIRI KHON KAEN 281114 002Macao: Australian Scott Hend soared on the wings of two eagles to shoot a seven-under-par 64 and open up a three-shot lead over defending champion Anirban Lahiri of India after the third round of the Venetian Macao Open on Saturday.

Big-hitting Hend eagled the par five second and 18th holes, the last with a lengthy 30-foot putt, at the Macau Golf and Country Club to set up a repeat of last year’s final day shootout with world number 39 Lahiri, who battled to a 68.

India’s Chiragh Kumar overcame a sore neck to return a 69 for third place, four shots off the pace in the US$1 million Asian Tour tournament while Australian Sam Brazel and another Indian, Rashid Khan will enter the last day five back following rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.

Hend, who won in Macao two years ago and was pipped by Lahiri last season after a memorable final day duel, said he was not out to exact revenge against the current Asian Tour’s Order of Merit leader. He leads on 15-underpar 198.

“No revenge, plenty of tournaments out there. All there is are rewards. A different ‘R’ word,” smiled Hend, who will be seeking his seventh Asian Tour victory on Sunday. “He’s very good you know. He’s a very good player. I’m very privilege. It’ll be great.”

The big-hitting Aussie started strongly in the penultimate group, sinking an eagle and two birdies in the opening four holes before dropping shots on five and seven. But he ended the day in style with an inward 31 that included three birdies and a second eagle.

“Anytime you are in the last two groups, you’ve got a chance. But if anyone plays better than you, so be it,” said the 42-year-old. “It was good. Obviously got off to a really nice start and sort of hit a wall, energy wise. A bit of jet lag coming in from London and I struggled physically out there. Tony (Carolan, his caddie) just said just ‘slow down and if you have to hit one more club, just do it.’ We took it as it came.”

Lahiri’s struggles on the greens continued as he needed 30 strokes with his flat stick. He chipped in for eagle on eight and then picked up two more shots with tap-ins on 14 and 16.

“I’m glad I hit it to six inches on 14 and six inches on 16. That was the only way I could get the ball into the hole,” said the 28-year-old Lahiri, a seven-time winner on the Asian Tour and looking for a third title for the year.

Last season, the talented Indian overcame a two-shot deficit to beat Hend and knows the Aussie will come out with guns blazing on Sunday. “We had a great time last year. Two years back, he was way ahead and I almost chased him down. Last year I managed to chase him down. He’s probably been waiting for this for a full year. I think we’ll both be ready for it,” said Lahiri.

He knows though that his putter must start behaving. Lahiri endured a disappointing Presidents Cup debut last week where he also struggled on the greens. “I’ve got five or six different putting gadgets out there (practice green) and I think I’m just going to put up a tent and live here tonight,” he said.

“It was very frustrating. Some holes, a little bit to do with the greens getting dry and crusty but most of it was just me. I’m going to have the believe that I’m going to come out and putt great tomorrow. Hopefully I can do that as a three-shot lead is something you don’t want to be giving Scott on this course. He loves it, I love it too.”

Kumar played for much of his back nine with a sore neck, but is hoping to live up to the old adage “beware the injured golfer” in the final round. “I played okay on the front nine but on the back nine, it was a bit tough. I woke up with a stiff neck and it just jammed up a bit on me on the back nine. I’ll see how it goes tomorrow but Scott is playing really well,” said Kumar, who is seeking a maiden win.

Overnight leader Hung Chien-yao had a day to forget as he stumbled to a 77 to slip back to tied 30th place.

The Venetian Macao Open is organised by the Macao Sport Development Board of Macao SAR Government and the Golf Association of Macau. Sanctioned by the latter and the Asian Tour, The Venetian® Macao is supporting the iconic event as title sponsor for the fourth successive year.

For more details on the Venetian Macao Open, please visit: www.thevenetianmacaoopen.com.

Scores after round 3 of the Venetian Macau Open 2015 being played at the par 71, 6,604 Yards Macau GCC course (am - denotes amateur):

198 - Scott HEND (AUS) 66-68-64.
201 - Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 66-67-68.
202 - Chiragh KUMAR (IND) 67-66-69.
203 - Rashid KHAN (IND) 70-65-68, Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 68-66-69.
204 - Jeunghun WANG (KOR) 65-68-71.
205 - Brett MUNSON (USA) 66-74-65, Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 68-71-66, Niall TURNER (IRL) 70-68-67, David LIPSKY (USA) 71-67-67, Steve LEWTON (ENG) 72-66-67, Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 68-65-72.
206 - Andrew DODT (AUS) 71-69-66, Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 67-72-67, Nathan HOLMAN (AUS) 72-67-67, Akinori TANI (JPN) 70-68-68, S.S.P CHAWRASIA (IND) 70-68-68, Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 67-68-71.