QINHUANGDAO, HEBEI, CHINA—Order of Merit leader Charlie Saxon edged closer to a record fifth career PGA TOUR Series-China title as the American carded a 1-over 73 to share the third-round lead at the RMB 1.5 million Qinhuangdao Championship with England’s Stephen Lewton (72).
After a windy day at Qinhuangdao Poly Golf Club, England’s Adam Sagar (72) was third at 7-under, one ahead of New Zealander Nick Voke, who moved into fourth with a 69.
It was one of only two sub-70 scores along with a 68 by Australian James Marchesani, who shared fifth with compatriots Max McCardle (72) and second-round leader Bryden Macpherson (77) at 5-under.
Big-hitting Yechun “Carl” Yuan (73), in his second event as a pro, was tied for eighth at 4-under with Chinese compatriots Daxing Jin (70) and Zehao Liu (72), and American Kevin Lee (71).
Saxon, who won two titles in 2016 and another two this season, was 12-under overall after his third birdie of the day at the seventh and then responded to a bogey at the ninth with a birdie at 10. He suffered three straight bogeys from the 12th, but a birdie at 15 put him 10-under and still two ahead of Lewton, who was in the clubhouse.
The American, whose caddie was Tour rookie Brian O’Donovan of Ireland, then double-bogeyed the 17th to fall back into a share of the lead and will play with two Englishmen in Sunday’s final group.
“Brian was great. He’s a real sport to come out and caddie for me, and he just kept me calm all day. Whenever I had a question, he was there and read a couple putts for me. He had a bad putter, but he was good at reading the putts,” said Saxon, who played on the Web.com Tour in 2017 and is looking to return next year.
“I’m really comfortable on top of the leaderboard. I’ve been there a number of times and have performed well. I’m confident with how I’m playing right now, so I just need to go out there and play my game. I’ll trust I’ll be in a good spot come the 18th hole tomorrow.”
Lewton, a former European Tour player, and Sagar will be the latest players aiming to become the first Englishman to win on the Tour, a cause most frequently led by six-time runner-up Callum Tarren, while William Harrold was second in the first two events of the year.
The 35-year-old Lewton, who won an Asian Tour title in 2014, has been leading the Tour in eagles this season, but is now desperate to secure a victory that would put him on the fringes of the top-5 and closer to his dream of qualifying for the Web.com Tour.
“I’ve played steady all week, so I think I have a good chance tomorrow. I’ve had a few good chances this year, but haven’t really done anything, so hopefully I can play well tomorrow and have a shot at Web.com next year,” said Lewton.
“The key for me is to stay patient, keep putting well and keep hitting good shots. Hopefully I’ll get my first win on this Tour and be the one holding the trophy.”
Any player ranked in the top-25 after this week’s Qinhuangdao Championship is exempt to the Second Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament, which will be held from October 30-November 2 and November 6-9.
From the final Order of Merit, the top-5 will earn status on next year’s Web.com Tour, top-10 players are exempt to the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament from December 6-9 and any player ranked 11-25 is exempt to the Second Qualifying Stage.
The PGA TOUR established PGA TOUR Series-China in 2014 as its third international developmental tour, following in the footsteps of PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada. Since its inception, PGA TOUR Series-China players have received Official World Golf Ranking points for top finishes at official tournaments.