Poulter nails two late birdies to retain Hong Kong lead

Hong Kong: Overnight leader Ian Poulter nailed 30-foot birdie putts on his last two holes to move clear of US Open champion Graeme McDowell with a third round six-under-par 64 at the Hong Kong Open on Saturday.

Briton Poulter, who hit a sizzling 60 in his second round, was tied with Ryder Cup team mate McDowell on 17-under with two holes to play on the suburban Fanling course.

The world number 14 rolled in a 30-foot putt at par-four 17th and then had Hong Kong fans applauding even louder when he sank a similar length curler at the last for a 19-under par total.

“It was huge to knock in those last two birdies because given the start some of the other players had, it was frustrating for me not to convert some early chances,” said Poulter to reporters.

“So with Graeme pressing and Simon (Dyson) pressing, I wanted to make sure that I go into tomorrow with a little lead.”

The 34-year-old had earlier birdied his second hole and holed a 12-foot putt for eagle at the par-five third hole.

Poulter then stalled, however, with nine straight pars before birdies at 13 and his last two holes.

Poulter is competing in Hong Kong for a first time and is primed to win for a second time in 2010 after capturing the WGC- Accenture Match-Play Championship in February.

Since that victory -- the 12th of his professional career -- Poulter had just one other top 10 this year on the European Tour when tied for sixth in his title defence at last week’s Singapore Open.

World number nine McDowell took advantage when officials brought the 10th tee forward by 85-yards and landed a 291-yard drive on the green and then holing the 30-foot eagle putt.

“I just nutted, absolutely nutted that drive,” said McDowell.

The Northern Irishman then birdied three holes in succession, starting from the 13th, before signing for a 63 and a 17-under par total.

“The Hong Kong golf course has been great to me in the past and it’s just good to have another opportunity to win again, tomorrow,” he said.

“But I am putting no pressure on myself because next week, and the final of the Race to Dubai, is huge while tomorrow will be a nice stepping stone, if I can do the job.”

If McDowell won the $2.5 million tournament, he would move to within 66,154 euros ($90,470) of Race to Dubai leader, Martin Kaymer of Germany.

Dyson (65) will start the final round in third place at 16-under par, while American Anthony Kang (67) and Briton Rory McIlroy (66) are at 15-under par.

Bureau Report

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