Macau: Anirban Lahiri put himself into the lead pair for the final round of the Venetian Macau Open with a flawless four-under 67 here on Saturday.
Second-placed Lahiri is now 12-under for three rounds and just two shots behind defending champion Scott Hend of Australia, who also shot a 67 today in the USD 900,000 event.
Hend and Lahiri were one-two at the Macau Open last year also. Chasing Hend and Lahiri will be Thailand's Prom Meesawat who fired the day's best of 64 to lie three behind the leader.
Of the other Indians who are in the fray, Shiv Kapur (67) brought himself into top-10 at tied ninth at six-under 207 while Jyoti Randhawa (69) is tied 13th at five-under 208.
SSP Chowrasia (73) slipped to tied 28th at one-under 212, while Jeev Milkha Singh (74) is tied 38th at even par 213. Daniel Chopra (78) crashed to 55th place at two-over 215.
Lahiri, who rued his putting on second day, benefitted from extra work on the practice green as he on first, sixth, ninth and 17th. The 27-year-old Indian, currently second on the Order of Merit, is hoping to reproduce the form that saw him card 61 on the opening day or last year's final round of 62 in Macau.
"When I left the range this morning, he (Hend) said he wanted to play with me and I'm looking forward to it," smiled Lahiri, who is chasing his fifth Asian Tour title.
"I just told myself to come out more positively. Yesterday, I was not in a good frame of mind but I just enjoyed my round today, something Thaworn (Wiratchant) said 'I'm an old man and I enjoy my golf'.
"There's certainly a lot to play for, a lot at stake, a lot of goals and targets. Sometimes, you just have to remember to enjoy yourself which is what I did." Kapur had five birdies between third and ninth to turn in five-under 30, but then had three birdies in four holes from 10th to 13th before closing birdies on 16th and 18th for a 67.
Randhawa had six birdies, a bogy and a double bogey in his 68. Despite feeling "flat", the in-form Hend dug deep into his reserves to produce three birdies over his closing six holes to give himself a shot at winning a second straight title following his triumph at the Hong Kong Open last week.
"It was good, I feel about 65% and I felt average. Hopefully I can come back tomorrow and feel a little more energy and concentrate better. I'm just feeling flat, extremely flat. I was waiting for it to come after last week and it's arrived. Hopefully the storm has passed," said the 41-year-old Aussie, who leads on 14-under-par 199.
The long-hitting Hend, chasing a seventh Asian Tour victory, came out of the blocks in stunning style when he nailed four successive birdies from the second hole, which included a chip-in on the fifth. But he stuttered with three bogeys over a five-hole stretch in mid-round before regaining his advantage with birdies on 13, 15 and 18.
Hend is hoping to become only the second player after China's Zhang Lian-wei to successfully defend the Venetian Macau Open title.
"There's no pressure. The pressure will be on the guys chasing. I'm the guy who won last week, I'm the one who's got the title. I've been there and done that. It'll be nice to lift another one"
Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand (67), winner here in 2009, Chinese Taipei's Chan Shih-chang (70), and co-overnight leader Adam Groom of Australia (72) are tied fourth, five back on 204 while South African star Ernie Els shot a 69 to lie in tied 22nd position on 211.