Dubai: Wu Ashun celebrated the Chinese New Year in spectacular fashion, by storming to a one-shot lead during an intense third round action in the 31st Omega Dubai Desert, at the Emirates Golf Club on Saturday.
Buoyed by an opening eagle on the 405-yard Par 4, where he holed out his second shot on the elevated green, protected by a foreground bunker, Ashun added four birdies for a five-under 67 that gave him a 11-under Par total and the sole ownership of a crowded leaderboard.
France’s Victor Perez matched Wu’s 67 to leapfrog to second place one stroke ahead of England’s Tom Lewis, who delivered the card of the day, a sublime 65 highlighted by seven birdies.
American Kurt Kitayama and defending champion Bryson DeChambeau were tied with Lewis in a top-heavy leaderboard, which saw several players with a chance of claiming victory on Sunday.
Meanwhile, overnight leader Eddie Pepperell returned a par 72 to be placed sixth, eight-under.
The 34-year-old Wu, who has banked three European Tour cheques in his career, was justifiably delighted with his performance at the Majlis Course and said: “That’s my ‘Happy Chinese New Year Shot’, you know.
And first shot, first hole and second shot is unbelievable for me for a very good start to No. 1. I didn’t know I holed it but the gallery went wild and I knew I holed it.
“It’s always happy to have a Chinese New Year, but I was here to play the tournament, but still happy because my family is here and my wife is with me. So it’s kind of the same feeling in China,” he added.
“Well tomorrow is a great day for me, I think, and I’m always happy to play the final round in the final group. So just enjoy the game and play your best, best game, best round tomorrow and let it happen, that’s it.”
DeChambeau complained of not feeling his best which probably accounted for his up and down round featuring six birdies and four bogeys.
But the American was looking forward to the final round and the prospect of a thrilling finish. “Bring it on, I love it he said,” he said at the clubhouse. “It would be incredible (to defend the title).
“Being under the weather and fighting through some of the stuff that happened last week and persevering this week would be a tremendous honour.
“I made I think it was four bogeys with wedges in my hand. If I can clear that up and keep attacking the par-3s and par-5s like I am, I’ll be right up there hopefully.”
Frenchman Perez displayed plenty of resolve in recovering from two early birdies to blast into contention by rattling off seven birdies in his last 12 holes.
“I was obviously very strong mentally” he said. ‘ I felt like it could have been easy to let that round slip a little bit, being a couple over par through five holes and the course really not giving you much on the front nine.
“[But] you kind of have to take your medicine and know that the chances are on the back. You can miss a putt here and there and I feel like I was doing well and obviously got on a big run on the back nine which puts me in a good position going into tomorrow.
“I think tomorrow’s supposed to be windy so it’s going to be a good challenge” he added.
“I think, again, we never know, somebody might come from early and post a number that nobody can really catch. So it’s very open.”
-11 Ashun Wu (China) 69 69 67
-10 Victor Perez (France) 73 66 67
-9 Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 70 67 70
Kurt Kitayama (USA) 69 70 68
Tom Lewis (England) 73 69 65
-8 Eddie Pepperell (England) 69 67 72
-7 Dean Burmester (South Africa) 69 68 72
Nacho Elvira (Spain) 73 70 66
Tommy Fleetwood (England) 75 65 69