FANLING, Hong Kong (Reuters) - Michael Campbell survived two major scares but the New Zealander remains on course to end a seven-year title drought at the Hong Kong Open.
The 43-year-old started Saturday’s third round with a one-stroke advantage and after scrambling to shoot a one-under-par 69, he was joined at the top of the leaderboard by Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez on 10-under for the tournament.
Campbell struggled to keep his nose ahead but by the end of the day, he was thankful to still be in with a chance of winning for the first time since 2005, when he followed up his U.S. Open triumph with the World Match Play Championship title.
His victory tilt first came under threat when he accidentally struck his ball while preparing to tee off on the 10th hole.
The ball travelled a few yards but Campbell was able to replace it without penalty after European Tour referee John Paramor accepted he had not indented to play a shot.
Campbell was in more trouble on the 18th when he found a greenside bunker with his approach and appeared set to drop a shot after a poor recovery.
He did well to retrieve the situation, however, by sinking a 20-foot par putt to maintain a share of the lead.
“What happened on the 10th tee was hilarious,” Campbell told reporters.
“I have never done that since I started playing golf 38 years ago. But I knew it was not a penalty and when John Paramor started walking towards me with a smile on his face, I knew I was fine to replace the ball.”
Campbell did admit that his golf had not been pretty but was just about good enough to keep him in contention.
“I managed to grind out a score, turning would could have been a 73 into a 69. That par save (at 18) was pretty important,” he added.
If Jimenez does go on to win the event on Sunday, he will become the oldest player to claim a European Tour victory at the ripe old age of 48 years and 318 days. Ireland’s Des Smyth was 284 days younger when he won the Madeira Island Open in 2001.
However, both Campbell and Jimenez face a fourth round challenge from a player at the other end of the golfing age spectrum.
After a third-round 64, Matteo Manassero is only one shot off the pace having last weekend become the first teenager to win three times on the European Tour when the Italian captured the Singapore Open in a playoff.
The 19-year-old had begun his round six shots off the pace but ended it within touching distance, tied for third with China’s Zhang Lianwei, after a sizzling inward nine of 30 that included a run of five successive threes.
Editing by John O'Brien