SHANGHAI – Luke Guthrie stumbled at the end of the third round Saturday and wound up tied for the lead with Rafa Cabrera-Bello in the BMW Masters.
Guthrie has led this European Tour event since his 65 in the opening round, and he had a three-shot lead at one point on the back nine at Lake Malaren. But his tee shot caught the bunker on the 16th, leading to a bogey. And he was in such an awkward spot on the 18th green that Guthrie felt his best option was to chip off the putting surface. He missed an 8-foot putt to take another bogey for an even-par 72.
Cabrera-Bello was far more efficient, keeping bogeys off his card in a round of 67. His final birdie on the par-3 17th turned out to be good enough for a share of the lead.
They were at 8-under 208, one shot ahead of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
Even though he finished poorly, Guthrie still managed to see the big picture. In his first trip to Asia, his first time playing a regular European Tour event filled with names he has only seen in print, he had a tie for the lead with one round to go.
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"Beginning of the week, if I was tied going into the fourth round, I'd have taken it, take my chances for tomorrow," Guthrie said. "I'm excited for the day. I just kind of let a few shots get away toward the end, and that's never run. But I'm tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I'm excited."
A win would allow Guthrie to stay in Shanghai one more week for the HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship that counts toward the PGA Tour. There's more at stake for him than that. Because of the strong field at the BMW Masters, a win might be enough to put Guthrie well inside the top 50 in the world.
Suddenly, though, those last 18 holes feels like a long way to go.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano had a 67 and was one shot behind. Ten other players were within five shots of the lead. Lee Westwood thought he might be closer until he finished with back-to-back bogeys for a 70, leaving him five shots behind. Peter Uihlein had a 69 and also was five back.
Rory McIlroy ran off four straight birdies to start the back nine and was trying to work his way into contention until he failed to birdie the par-5 15th, and then took double bogey on his last hole for a 71 that left him six shots behind.
John Daly's return to golf, which looked so promising in the opening two rounds, fell apart on a windy afternoon. He took a pair of triple bogeys and shot 44 on the back nine, sending him to a 78 and out of contention. Daly had been within five shots of the lead until the back nine.
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It didn't look like anyone would get close to Guthrie, the only player to reach 10 under at any point. Cabrera-Bello opened with two straight birdies, and while he only made two more on the back nine, he plodded along in the wind and never dropped a shot.
The Spaniard will be going for his third European Tour win.
"I'm not like really excited or anything," he said. "I'm happy, I'm proud, I'm confident and I'm enjoying the tournament so far. Hopefully, tomorrow I can keep those feelings and take them on to the golf course with me, go out there, play my best and enjoy."
Fernandez-Castano looked like he would drop shots at the end, like so many other players. His tee shot went into the water on the par-3 17th – the only green he missed in the third round – but he recovered beautifully to drop only one shot, and then picked up a rare birdie on the 18th to get back into the picture.
Gregory Bourdy, who won the Wales Open this year, had a 67 and was two shots behind. Paul Casey missed a short par putt on the last hole for a 71, though he was only three shots behind, along with Scottish duo of Craig Lee and Scott Jamieson.
Simon Dyson never had a chance to make a move. He left the course Friday in a six-way tie for second, only four shots behind. When he arrived, however, he was shown a video of his play on the eighth green of Friday's round. After marking a short putt, Dyson inexplicably used the golf ball to tamp a spot on the green directly in his line. That's a violation of Rule 16-1a, which carries a two-shot penalty. Dyson was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
It was a big blow for Dyson, who is No. 66 in the Race of Dubai. Only the top 60 advance to the World Tour Championship in Dubai to close out the year, and because he is not in the HSBC Champions next week, he will have only one tournament to try to crack the top 60.