Aggressive American Alex Kang has laid down a ‘catch me if you can’ challenge heading into the final round of the PGA Tour China Series Clearwater Bay Open, with China’s former security guard and caddy Zhang Xinjun leading the challenge to overhaul his four-shot lead.
Watch: action from the Clearwater Bay Open
First-round leader Kang moved to 14-under-par at Clearwater Bay Golf Country Club with a bogey-free third round seven-under-par 63 on Saturday as the 26-year-old chases a second win of the season.
Zhang dropped just one shot in a six-under 64 to sit tied for second alongside South Korean Lee Dai-han who matched Kang’s 63, although the pair face a confident final round playing partner who landed June’s Cadillac Championship having also held a four shot 54-hole lead.
“I will play my own game and look to separate myself from the pack, and if I do, I can play the back nine more conservatively. But for now, I still need to make birdies and stick to my game plan,” said Kang. “Last time I won by six, so hope I can win by seven or more this time.”
Kang, whose sister Danielle is a leading player on the women’s US LPGA tour, did struggle in conditions on Friday which even he admits were the easiest of the week after he added a one-under second round to an opening six-under 64.
He looked to be on course to drop his first shot of the third round after plugging his approach shot into the face of a greenside bunker on the 18th, but made a seemingly impossible escape before rolling in a 10 foot birdie putt after that aggressive mentality had convinced him he could make the final green in two.
Watch: Alex Kang’s amazing bunker shot
“My aggressive play has helped me well this year,” added Kang, who earned his card this season after coming through qualifying at the start of the year. “It has helped me, but I have also missed cuts because of it.
“Zhang is a really aggressive player like me so it should be fun.”
Zhang might need to live up to his billing to chase down Kang as he seeks to extend his winning record of having claimed victory in each of the two China Series seasons to date.
The 29-year-old is currently just one place behind Kang on the order of merit after wins in 2014 and 2015 saw Zhang finish second and third on the tour’s money list for the last two years.
Watch: Zhang Xinjun
Zhang is one of the senior players on the China Series circuit, while his story also reads a little differently than most having been forced to start work in his teens to support his family after failing to get into high school.
“Golf helped me a lot. I started work when I was a teenager, and through working experiences and golf training, I can be more mature and I treasure every chance,” said Zhang, who missed a solid birdie chance at the last.
“I have been a security guard at a course, and a caddy. I have worked on the course for a long time and I realise that I do really love golf.
“When I compare myself with the younger players on the PGA China Series, I feel a bit of pressure as I am not young anymore, however, it can give me energy to push myself.”
New Zealand’s Daniel Pearce (64), Australia’s Daniel Nisbet (65), Americans Charlie Saxon (65) and Sam Chien (66) and Korea’s Mun Do-yeob (65) sit tied for fourth a further shot off the pace at nine-under-par.
Hong Kong’s Jason Hak Shun-yat, meanwhile, produced a hard-fought two-under-par 68 to improve to two-over-par overall to sit tied for 50th place.