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News // Finau eyes up WGC-HSBC Champions crown as Rose lets slip

Finau eyes up WGC-HSBC Champions crown as Rose lets slip

With two holes to play in the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions, Justin Rose was leading Tony Finau by two strokes and looking a good bet to become   the first player since Tiger Woods in 2007 to defend a WGC title.

England’s finest player of the modern era had played beautifully-controlled golf at Sheshan International to catch and then overtake Finau, who had started the day three strokes ahead of a trio of players – Rose, Tommy Fleetwood, and fellow American Patrick Reed.

By the time they were walking off the 18th green, however, the lead had dramatically changed hands once again. A two-stroke lead had turned into a three-stroke deficit for Rose, who first double-bogeyed the par-three 17th after finding water off the tee and then bogeyed the 18th after repeating the feat with his approach shot to the green.

Finau, who is looking for his first win since 2016, added salt to the wound by rolling in a short putt for a birdie at the 17th, his second in succession, and adding another from around 12 feet at the last to move to 13 under par with a round of 70. Rose and Reed, who also had rounds of 70, once again have three strokes to make up on Finau, as does Xander Schauffele, who had a 69. Fleetwood is five strokes off the pace after a level-par round of 72

While it is nice to sleep on a lead, Rose will not allow himself to agonise too much about what could have been. He won this title after making up eight strokes on Dustin Johnson in the final round last year and knows from good, and now bad, experience how shots can come and go and Sheshan International. In every sense, it will make for a fascinating final day.

“I’m playing well so I’ve got to go out tomorrow, shoot something in the mid- 60s, and see if I can chase Tony down,” Rose said. “Obviously there are three guys at 10-under who are all going to be chasing pretty hard, but there’s nothing to lose. I’ve just got to put those last couple of holes behind me and come out a little bit angry.”

As one of the most laid-back characters in the game, it is hard to imagine Finau getting angry. He missed a couple of short putts early in his round, one from no more than a couple of feet, but he showed no sense of despair as his lead slowly disappeared. Likewise, he was not too exuberant when things finally started to turn his way.

“You need to have a short-term memory when it comes to hitting bad shots,” he explained. “I’m never too up, never too down, at least for the most part. It usually serves me well because you get over shots faster and you can move on faster.”

After finishing the day with the same lead he had started with, Finau is pleased that his nearest rivals will once again have to do all the chasing. “This is the position you want to be in,” he said. “I’ll be looking to close out my first tournament in this position, which is exciting. I’ve put myself in a great position and I’m going to have fun no matter the outcome. Hopefully I’ll make a lot of birdies and make those guys have to do something special tomorrow to beat me.”