Golf: Lee's putter rolls him into the lead in Malaysia as Holman falters

South Korea's Lee Soo Min is in a surprise lead heading into the final  final round of the Maybank Championship Malaysia.
South Korea's Lee Soo Min is in a surprise lead heading into the final final round of the Maybank Championship Malaysia. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Lee Soo Min of South Korea surprised even himself, with a dazzling putting display on Saturday to snatch a three-stroke edge heading into the final round of the inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia.

The 22-year-old shot a seven-under 64 to leapfrog 36-hole leader Nathan Holman of Australia and pre-tournament favourite Danny Willett of England.

He is now at 15-under, three shots ahead of Marcus Fraser of Australia, who finished the day with a 66 at the Royal Selangor Golf Club.

Playing in just his second European Tour event, Lee rolled in nine birdies, including four straight on the back nine when he insists he was merely trying to get it close, only to watch the putts drop.

"After making birdie, I gained more confidence and continued to make more birdies," he said.

If Lee can hold on Sunday to win the US$3 million (S$4.2 million) tournament, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, it would be his maiden triumph outside South Korea.

While Lee thrived, the stifling 33 deg C heat seemed to sap the other key contenders.

Holman, the recent Australian PGA champion, had established himself as the man to beat in Malaysia with an impressive tee-to-green game the first two days.

But the 24-year-old long-hitter struggled on Saturday, dropping four shots by the 11th.

A late surge brought Holman to within a stroke of Lee, but he stumbled into the clubhouse with a triple-bogey on 18 after sailing a fairway bunker shot into a pond.

He finished with a third-round 73 and goes into the final day four strokes behind Lee.

"I fell back but it's still a good position so I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Four shots on Sunday is not too many," Holman said.

Masahiro Kawamura of Japan, Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines, and Spain's Jorge Campillo were locked in a tie for fourth at 10-under.

Willett had entered as the field's highest-ranked player at world No. 13, and was favoured following a victory two weeks ago in the Dubai Desert Classic and other strong recent finishes.

His fine play lately has catapulted him up golf's world rankings in recent months and a win in Malaysia would push him past Sweden's Henrik Stenson to first in the Race to Dubai rankings, according to the European Tour.

That may have to wait after he posted a disappointing 73 on Saturday, leaving him nine shots off Lee's pace.

The tournament, which offers US$500,000 to the winner, is the successor to the longtime Malaysian Open, which has been discontinued owing to a sponsorship realignment