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Birdie blitz puts Finch in front

BRITON Richard Finch will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the US$2.2 million China Open after shooting a sparkling 6-under par 66 in Beijing yesterday.

The 31-year-old Englishman rattled in six successive birdies around the turn to move to 8-under for the tournament, a shot better than Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, who carded a 68.

Australian Ashley Hall hit the joint best round of the day with a 65 to move into a tie for third with former champion Markus Brier on 5-under and claim a share of the new course record at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club.

Leader Finch parred his first five holes and bogeyed the sixth, but his round burst into life with his streak of birdies from the seventh to the 12th holes, adding one more at the 16th to round off a fine day.

"Six birdies in a row made it a really nice day. I am really pleased with the round," Finch told reporters. "But things can change quickly ... so I'll play my best and see what happens."

Britons David Dixon and Simon Dyson, Australian Scott Strange and big-hitting Thai Chapchai Nirat were in a share of fifth, four strokes off the pace.

New Zealander Mark Brown cleared seven birdies without dropping any shot to set the new course record with Hall.

"I thought I'd miss the cut yesterday afternoon," said Brown, now tied for ninth.

"The course is there for the taking this morning for sure ... You won't get better scoring conditions than that and I was just trying to take advantage of it as much as I could."

An hour later, Australia's Hall fired an eagle three on the 18th to match the new record.

"It was an absolutely fantastic day, although I was a little bit lucky at the last," said the 25-year-old.

Defending champion Damien McGrane carded seven bogeys in a 78 to fall to 8-over, plunging to 69th place among the 73 players in the field.

Liang Wenchong, the best of the four Chinese who had made the cut, eagled the par-five 13th in a 70 to score level-par, the same as 2010 European Ryder Cup captain and group partner Colin Montgomerie who picked up two shots in the third round.

"Monty might be affected by the spectators' behavior," Liang told the reporters.

"Golf is a brand new culture for the Chinese. We need spectators. And we also need the spectators to be educated more on golf manners," said Liang.

The China Open is jointly sanctioned by the European Tour and is the first tournament in the OneAsia series launched by the PGA of Australasia, the China Golf Association and the Korean Golf Association and PGA.

OneAsia has been created as a rival to the established Asian Tour in a battle for control of professional golf on the continent.


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