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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
ASSOCIATED PRESSAP
# Orient Express
Jacobson leads by two at HSBC Champions
A third round of 67 vaulted the Swede into a two-shot lead over a host of major-winning challengers led by 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are all in touch.

Adam Scott believes his caddie’s racial comment about former boss Tiger Woods was taken out of context and wasn’t a distraction to him. He showed that much in the final hour of the HSBC Champions to charge back into contention.

“Didn’t distract me too badly in the end today,” Scott said after a birdie-birdie-eagle finish for a 69, leaving him three shots behind Fredrik Jacobson going into the final round of the World Golf Championship.

“Look, anything with Tiger involved is a story,” Scott said. “I value Steve’s contribution to my game and to have him on the bag. While he’s caddying, I hope he can caddie for me.”

Overlooked in all this was Jacobson, who won his first PGA Tour event this summer at the Travelers Championship and is on the cusp of adding an even bigger title at Sheshan International.

Jacobson ran in birdie putts of 30 feet and 40 feet on consecutive holes on the back nine, then finished with four pars for a 5-under 67 that gave him a two-shot lead over Louis Oosthuizen. The Swede reached the clubhouse at 16-under-par, breaking by two shots the 54-hole tournament record.
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy finally got on track with bogey-free round of 65 and was at 12-under 204, along with Lee Westwood, who had a 67. Martin Kaymer (68) and Graeme McDowell (67) were five shots behind.

Westwood and McIlroy will be in the penultimate group, with their own small drama. McIlroy two weeks ago left the International Sports Management group that includes Westwood.

He has exchanged banter with Westwood on Twitter this year that had a bit of an edge to it, and McIlroy stopped followed Westwood on Twitter after leaving Chubby Chandler and ISM.

Even so, nothing compared with the squabble going on with Williams and Woods, which features Scott trying to keep neutral ground. Westwood, Geoff Ogilvy and Ian Poulter were among those who walked away when the topic shifted to Williams and Woods.

“I’ve had an ear infection for two weeks and I couldn’t hear a lot of what was going on,” Westwood said sarcastically. “So it would be wrong for me to comment on anything.”

The leaders didn’t care, either. At stake Sunday is something they feel is far more important.

Jacobson took the lead Friday with a 66, and he has not shown any indications that he will stop firing at flags on a Sheshan International course that remains vulnerable with occasional light rain and an overcast sky.

“I think I’ve been playing aggressive all week,” Jacobson said. “It’s one of those weeks I think you’ve got to keep putting good numbers on the board. So you can’t really play too safe.”

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Oosthuizen recently returned to form after the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, and a 63 in the second round put him in the mix. He had another bogey-free round, with a birdie on the final hole keeping him in range.

“Tomorrow, everyone is going to be pumped up because it’s a great leaderboard going into the final round,” Oosthuizen said. “I think everyone wants that title, so you’re going to see some good golf.”

Indeed, it was the strongest leaderboard of all the World Golf Championships this year. Jacobson will playing in the last group with a former British Open champion and Scott, who has won The Players Championship and a WGC event.

The next group features Westwood, a former world No. 1, a U.S Open champion (McIlroy) and former PGA champion (Kaymer). After that is McDowell, another U.S. Open champ.

– Doug Ferguson, AP

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