Grace leads Colsaerts by three shots after third round of Volvo China Open

Branden Grace at the Volvo China Open
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Branden Grace started the third round one shot off the lead, but gained four shots in three holes.
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2012 | 12:37 p.m.

Branden Grace of South Africa shot an 8-under 64 Saturday and has a three-shot lead after three rounds of the Volvo China Open on the European Tour.

The 23-year-old South African moved to 18-under 198, three shots ahead of defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium on the links-style course at Binhai Lake.

Grace started the third round one shot off the lead, but gained four shots in three holes, sinking a 15-foot eagle putt on the sixth green.

On a day of light winds and low scoring, Fabrizio Zanotti of Paraguay also shot a 64 to move to 14 under, four strokes back. Alexander Noren of Sweden had a 63 to join four other players at 13 under.

Grace is looking for his third victory on the European Tour in 2012, having already won the Joburg Open and Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa in January. His confidence is high after having beaten major winners Retief Goosen and Ernie Els to win the Volvo Champions on a very similar course at Fancourt in South Africa.

''I can draw from experience,'' said Grace who had seven birdies in his round and only dropped one shot when he three-putted on the 14th green. ''I am feeling really positive after getting my first two wins early in the year and just wanting to keep on pushing on from there. The difference all this year has been that I have been holing more putts.

''But this course here in China is very similar to Fancourt,'' he explained. ''It is long has the same links feeling about it and I am getting the same feelings.''

Colsaerts, trying to defend the title he won last year and playing alongside Grace, started slowly but four birdies on the back nine allowed him to shoot a 6-under 66.

Noren's 9-under 63 was the lowest round of the day. He was joined at 13 under by France's Jean Baptiste, who had held a share of the halfway lead, but dropped back with a 2-under 70.

The other overnight leader, Gary Boyd of England, started his third round by dropping two shots in three holes. He had a 71 and was six shots behind Grace.

Grace was 5 under for the front nine, picking up a shot at the second before two further birdies sandwiched an eagle at the sixth. His only dropped shot came with a three-putt at the 14th but he bounced back with a superb pitch to close range at 15 as he birdied three of the last four.

Defending champion Colsaerts had two birdies on the front nine and four more after the turn, though his par on the 17th will have felt as satisfying as any of them after an excellent escape from a bunker.

The diminutive Zanotti hit the ground running with three birdies in the first four holes and another before the turn. Further pairs of birdies at 12 and 13 and then the last two holes meant he had climbed 14 places on the leaderboard.

Coetzee bounced back from a dropped shot at the second with four successive birdies from the fifth and four more in the last five holes.

And Noren's 63 featured six birdies in the last seven holes, his only blemish coming with a bogey four at the short third as he jumped 25 places up the standings.