(Reuters) - Australian Marcus Fraser shot a five-under-par 65 in the third round of the Hong Kong Open on Saturday to grab a one-stroke lead and put himself in prime position for a winning return from a long injury layoff.
The two-time European Tour winner was out for eights months with a hand injury and showed little signs of any rustiness, firing four birdies in his closing six holes for a three-day total of 11-under 199 at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
Fellow Australian Scott Hend carded a 67 to lie a stroke behind while Filipino Angelo Que (67), South Africa’s Jbe Kruger (66) and Englishman Mark Foster (66) were tied for the third place on nine-under.
“Nobody’s more surprised than I am that’s for sure,” Fraser, 36, said after the penultimate round of the co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event.
“After eight months of sitting on the couch – it hasn’t been the best eight months but when you play like that it makes it worthwhile.
“Practice last week felt really good so I felt like I was heading in the right direction, finally, after I started practicing six or seven weeks ago.”
Fraser, who won the Asian Tour and European Tour sanctioned 2010 Ballantine’s Championship in Korea, opened his round with a bogey but climbed up the leaderboard with six birdies.
“To come and play the way I did on the back nine today was pretty pleasing,” Fraser added. “I had no idea going into the week and I’ve no idea going into tomorrow.
“Hopefully I’ll keep playing the way I’m playing and I feel pretty comfortable out there at the moment.”
Four-times major winner Ernie Els of South Africa surrendered his overnight two-shot lead after a rollercoaster round of 71 in which he mixed an eagle and two birdies with three dropped shots and a double-bogey on the ninth hole to lie tied sixth.
“It was a little hectic, especially the ninth hole,” Els said. “I tried a couple of things and they didn’t come off but I don’t see there’s any reason not to still go for it.
“I need something low obviously, but I’d like to go really low just for my own wishes.”
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Amlan Chakraborty