Aiken leads by three shots over Liang after third round of Avantha Masters

Thomas Aiken at the Avantha Masters
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Thomas Aiken began his Saturday at the Avantha Masters four shots off the lead, but carded eight birdies and an eagle for an 18-under-par total of 198 at Jaypee Greens Golf Course.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

GREATER NOIDA, India -- Thomas Aiken of South Africa will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the Avantha Masters after charging through the field with a superb 10-under-par 62 on Saturday.

Aiken began the day four shots off the lead, but carded eight birdies and an eagle for an 18-under-par total of 198 at Jaypee Greens Golf Course jut outside of Delhi.

The 29-year-old from Johannesburg, whose sole European Tour title to date came in the 2011 Spanish Open, covered the front nine in 30 thanks to four birdies and an eagle when he holed a pitch shot on the second. He picked up four more birdies on the back nine to finish three clear of overnight co-leader Wen-chong Liang of China, who returned a 69.

Scotland's David Drysdale had looked set to be Aiken's closest challenger following birdies at the 16th and 17th, but he drove into the water on the 18th and ran up a double-bogey 6.

That left Drysdale, seeking a first tour win in his 291st attempt, sharing third on 14 under with Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Australian Scott Hend, England's Tommy Fleetwood and Finland's Joonas Granberg are a shot further back.

Former Ryder Cup player David Howell is in a tie for 12th on 11 under after a flawless 65.

Spain's Alvaro Quiros, making his first appearance in four months following wrist surgery in November last year, added a 69 to his two opening rounds of 70 to lie 7 under par.

Aiken was 6 under par after just eight holes, but insisted the thoughts of a historic 59 never entered his mind.

"I wasn't really thinking about the score at all," he said. "I got off to a great start with a birdie at the first and holing a pitch shot for eagle always helps, but from then on I just stuck to my game plan.

"I didn't hit too many drivers on the front nine to take a lot of the trouble out of play and relied on hitting some good iron shots, which I happened to do today and converted them as well," he explained. "All in all I'm very pleased with the way I played and it's funny what can happen when you are not thinking about a score.

"I have been playing very well the last few months and just haven't converted opportunities; there was always a round of level par or one over and fortunately this week I have converted a lot of the opportunities that I've had," he said. "I missed a few, as we all do, but the majority have gone in from inside 10feet and that makes the big difference from the scoring point of view."

Despite his double bogey on the 18th, Drysdale attempted to take the positives from an otherwise excellent round.

"It was all going to plan through 17 but I got a little bit greedy with my tee shot on the last and paid the price,'' he said. "I generally drive the ball so straight, so it's annoying. I got the wind wrong and thought it was helping and not hurting and came up a couple of yards short of the carry I thought I would make.

"Shame about the finish but I am still in there for tomorrow," he added. "I would have taken it at the start of the week, so I am looking forward to tomorrow.''