Unconvincing leaders set to encourage chasing pack
Lipsky ready to turn the screw
Hong Kong Open
Story so far
Rafael Cabrera-Bello led at the halfway stage of the Hong Kong Open having made a typically fast start to a tournament, but the Spaniard wobbled during round three to allow the chasing pack to close.
Cabrera-Bello, 16-1 third-favourite behind Patrick Reed and Justin Rose at the start of the week, carded a level-par Saturday 70 at Hong Kong Golf Club. A double-bogey at the 14th hole did most of the damage.
Reed and Rose are well out of contention - 11 and ten shots behind respectively - but Australian outsider Sam Brazel has moved alongside Cabrera-Bello at the top of the leaderboard.
Brazel, a 250-1 rag at the outset, produced a flawless back-nine 33 to match Cabrera-Bello's 54-hole total of 11 under par. Tommy Fleetwood is in third place, two shots adrift. Cabrera-Bello is 5-4 favourite with 18 holes to play.
-11 Sam Brazel, Rafael Cabrera-Bello
-9 Tommy Fleetwood
-8 David Lipsky
-7 Justin Walters, David Howell, Andrew Dodt
-6 Thongchai Jaidee, Daniel Im, Jason Scrivener, Edoardo Molinari, Paul Dunne, Soomin Lee
-5 Peter Uihlein, Danny Willett, Shiv Kapur, Benjamin Hebert, Stephen Gallacher
5-4 R Cabrera-Bello, 4 S Brazel, 11-2 T Fleetwood, 12 D Lipsky, 28 T Jaidee, 33 A Dodt, 35 D Howell, 40 J Walters, 66 S Lee, D Willett, J Scrivener, 80 P Dunne, 125 bar
Rafa Cabrera-Bello is often unconvincing when in contention for titles and the way he lost his swing over the back nine of round three does not bode well for Sunday.
Cabrera-Bello was missing both ways off the tee, as well as slicing plenty of approaches. His putter was to thank for keeping him in the thick of things - a holed monster for a bounceback birdie at the 15th was crucial - but the long-game issues will concern his supporters.
Tee-to-green control is usually RCB's strength - chipping is his main weakness - and there is every chance he will right his ship overnight. Given the lack of killer instinct he has shown in this position through the years, though, there is no urge whatsoever to weigh in at just 5-4.
Cabrera-Bello is winless since the 2012 Dubai Desert Classic and in his last event - the DP World Tour Championship - he went from deep in contention to 23rd place after closing with a round of 75.
Tommy Fleetwood, winless since the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship, has proven equally brittle in a Sunday battle. He has been swinging superbly for three months, but short-game errors and poor course-management have left trophies unthreatened. A fluffed chip at the 18th hole in round three highlighted the fact that Fleetwood's lack of touch on and around the greens will probably cost him Hong Kong glory.
The man playing the best golf on the way to the clubhouse in round three was Sam Brazel, who is a fair price at 4-1. Brazel is an Asian Tour player who is comfortable in the conditions and clearly in possession of his A-game.
Brazel, though, has never won on the Asian Tour - he has never won on any significant tour in fact - and victory probably means too much to him. It would earn the Australian a European Tour card and take his career to a new level. The 37-year-old journeyman has every right to be a bag of nerves.
None of the market leaders in the outright betting seem likely to take this event by the scruff of the neck, and it looks wide open. Anyone at five under par or better still has a serious chance of success, a group which includes Masters champion Danny Willett.
Four back-nine bogeys from Willett in round three suggests he may not be the man to take a chance on. Soomin Lee, who fired a sensational six-under-par back-nine 30, is a potential dangerman to consider at 66-1, while Edoardo Molinari also caught fire coming home.
Lee, Molinari, Jason Scrivener, Thongchai Jaidee and Paul Dunne are all close enough to challenge. David Lipsky is that little bit more in touch, though, and arguably represents the best value at 12-1.
Lipsky, a winner on the Asian Tour and the European Tour, finished 47th on the 2016 Race to Dubai. The 28-year-old Californian is in fourth place in Hong Kong and likely to turn the screw on those in front of him on both the leaderboard and the outright betting.
Lee, who finished third in this event last year after signing off with a 64, looks an even-money bargain against Justin Walters in the 4.05am (UK and Ireland time) twoball.
1pt each-way 12-1 general
1pt Evens Coral