Golf: Liang gets second shot at title

Chinese golfer Liang Wenchong at the third round of the SMBC Singapore Open. Liang is second on the leader board going into today's final round.
Chinese golfer Liang Wenchong at the third round of the SMBC Singapore Open. Liang is second on the leader board going into today's final round.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

2009 Open runner-up in position for final-day push as he sinks eight birdies for the clubhouse lead

Whatever heartbreak Liang Wenchong felt seven years ago at the Singapore Open will be used as motivation today when he seeks redemption at the Sentosa Golf Club.

With three holes to play at the 2009 edition, the Chinese star had a share of the lead, but was overtaken by England's Ian Poulter, who eventually triumphed by a solitary stroke at the then-US$6 million (S$8.54 million) event, leaving the crestfallen Liang to rue the big one that got away.

A second chance awaits today, after Liang fired a four-under-par 67 yesterday and moved to eight-under 205 for the clubhouse lead of the tournament.

 

Said the 2007 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner: "I'm happy I managed to birdie 16th and 18th coming in, as those birdies gave me that much-needed confidence boost for tomorrow."

A two-putt birdie from more than 15m on the 496m, par-five 18th - ironically the hole he could only par when a birdie would have forced a play-off with Poulter in 2009 - in the fading light saw Liang, who played 31 holes yesterday, pull within a shot of overnight leader Song Young Han.

  • 8

    Birdies in 31 holes for Liang Wenchong yesterday. His only blemish was a bogey-five on the fifth in the third round.

The South Korean was nine-under through 13 holes before play was halted last night.

The world No. 204 has six runner-up finishes and is still searching for his maiden title but lacked nothing in terms of confidence.

He said: "I do not think that will affect me (mentally) tomorrow. It would be great to win here and that's my aim."

Song, 24, was one of 13 golfers unable to complete their third round after inclement weather had caused numerous delays on Thursday and Friday, as well as yesterday's late start.

Also among those affected was world No. 1 Jordan Spieth, whose struggles with the Serapong greens continued yesterday.

Each time the American seem poised to make a charge up the leaderboard, he was halted by his disobedient putter.

He was six-under and will face a testing six-footer to save par on the 17th when he returns at 7.30am, the second straight early start for him and many in the field of the US$1 million event.

It proved to be a testing and long day for not just the top-ranked Spieth, but world No. 26 An Byeong Hun, 24, as well.

The 2015 European Tour Rookie of the Year had started Round 3 at seven-under and in contention.

But six bogeys and a double erased his hard work and the South Korean's frustrations as he slammed his iron after another errant shot on the 12th needed no translation.

At 37, the ever-smiling Liang is less prone to losing his cool.

With 20 titles across Asia, including the 2007 Singapore Masters at the Laguna National Golf and Country Club, there is little that the son of a poor rice farmer with an unorthodox golf swing has to prove to himself.

Talk of unfinished business or revenge in the Republic was also brushed aside by Liang, who was tied eighth at the 2010 PGA Championship and reached a career high world No. 57.

"To be honest, I'm just feeling tired after my round," he said.

"I'll try my best tomorrow."

SMBC SINGAPORE OPEN
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 31, 2016, with the headline 'LIANG GETS SECOND SHOT AT TITLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe