Ireland lead the Omega Mission Hills World Cup by two shots going into the final round at Mission Hills Resort on Hainan Island.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy combined for a bogey free eight under par 64 in the third round fourballs to head the leaderboard on 21 under par.
Germany and South Africa produced best-of-the–day rounds of 61 to join the United States (63) in second on 19 under.
While pre-tournament favourites Ireland look to be in a strong position after combining for eight birdies, the last two winners of the US Open Championship are well aware of the big names hot on their heels.
“We are right where we want to be going into tomorrow,” said McDowell. “The leaderboard was really going to sort of not mean anything until tonight, and we are two shots ahead going into tomorrow, but some great teams up there, some great players.
“We are going to have to go and play well tomorrow, but this is where we want to be. We are both playing lovely - I managed to heat my putter up today and make a few, and we are very excited looking forward to tomorrow.
“When we saw the scoreboard, I think we were on sixth green and we saw Germany were off to a flyer. We actually expected that today - I think there were 18 teams within five shots of the lead.
“We knew someone was going to go low today, and the leaderboard was going to be fairly bunched going into tomorrow.”
Former US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer was in sensational form for Germany – holing a 40 foot putt at the ninth as he and Alex Cejka turned in 30.
Cejka then holed a five foot birdie putt at the 11th, before Kaymer produced some stunning approaches to leave tap-in birdies at the 12th, 14th and 16th.
Four-time European Tour winner Cejka then chipped in at the 17th to card the pair’s 11th birdie of the day.
“That was kind of a bonus because I was short of the green,” said Cejka. “It was a pretty tough chip and Martin was on the other plateau on the right, so it was a tough putt. It was a bonus for us to make birdie from there, but every birdie counts and is important.”
Kaymer added: “We played very well together. We made lots of birdies and always on different holes.
“We had a slow start on Thursday - we didn't make any birdies the first six, seven holes and then we started making some birdies and even though we miss some greens, we were always pretty sure that he will make his up and downs so I could always be fairly aggressive.
“I played very well today, but obviously you can only play well and be aggressive if you have a partner who is playing very consistent and is always there for you.”
Major winners Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen matched their efforts, thanks largely to a run of four consecutive birdies from the 14th.
And former Open Champion Oosthuizen put their success down to their close friendship.
“I think we know each other really well and we travel most of the weeks together,” he said. “We are good friends and I think it definitely is a big thing in this format, in any team sport.
“The more you know each other, the better you're going to do, and I think we are very comfortable around each other. We do our own thing and whenever someone needs help, you ask him.
“It makes it a lot easier that we are so comfortable around each other.”
Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland dropped a shot at the par five second for the USA, before a run of five straight birdies from the fourth put them back on track.
There were three further gains coming in, before Woodland rolled in a five footer at the 17th to leave them well placed going into the final round.
“Matt really got us going early,” said Woodland, who won his first US PGA Tour title in April. “I was kind of all over the place, and he made a birdie on the first hole, got the edge off and then made three or four in a row there.
“It was nice when I was struggling that he picked me up and fortunately I made some putts on the back nine. He had a huge up-and-down on the last hole that really kept the momentum going, and hopefully gives us a lot more momentum going into tomorrow.”
Overnight joint-leaders Australia only managed a 67 – Brendan Jones produced only one birdie all day, pitching to a foot on the 17th, as Richard Green carried their round for long periods.
They sit fifth on 18 under, one ahead of The Netherlands after last week’s Iskandar Johor Open winner Joost Luiten birdied the last from eight feet for a 64.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
From European Tour website