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Poulter, Ichihara and Levet Lead
Sentosa, October 31: Ian Poulter provided a Halloween treat for the crowds at the US$5 million Barclays Singapore Open on Saturday morning to open up a five-stroke lead but failed to repeat the trick in the afternoon’s weather-hit third round.
The Englishman's misfortunes allowed unheralded Kodai Ichihara of Japan and Thomas Levet of France to draw level atop the leaderboard on eight-under-par at the Sentosa Golf Club, with the field bracing for a marathon Sunday.
Poulter returned in the morning to complete a brilliant second round of seven-under-par 64 where he added five birdies to his remaining 15 holes but he gave up his lead by dropping four shots over six holes of the third round before play was suspended at 5.36pm.
His uncharacteristic lapse also saw China's Liang Wen-chong and Andrew Dodt of Australia throw their names into the potential winner's hat as they are one shot off the pace.
No one completed the third round which will resume at 7.30am on Sunday. The final round will begin at 9.40am with the same pairings.
Poulter, a seven-time winner in Europe but not since 2006, was disappointed that he failed to carry through his form. "It wasn't the best of starts. I three putted the first and then went for the green in two on the fourth from a bad lie and hit it in the water," said the Ryder Cup star.
Ichihara sank two birdies in his seven holes to give himself a chance of winning Asia's richest national Open, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
"I hit my shots well, tee shots and second shots were solid. My putting was pretty average though. This morning, I came back to play 11 holes and the weather interruptions have made me a little tired," said Ichihara, searching for his maiden win.
"I'm just trying to enjoy the golf. I finished top-five in Malaysia last week which locked up my Tour card for next season. I've got no pressure and my confidence is also up. I'm going to try and play for a win as I'm in a good position."
Levet, who has five wins in Europe including this year's Spanish Open, was thrilled to be in contention in Singapore. "I was in the fight at the Irish Open and then at the BMW PGA at Wentworth as well when I finished in the top-10. I like to be in the fight, it's a lot better than fighting for 55th!," said the 41-year-old Frenchman.
"I have been playing very well on practice day for the last two months and really ugly in the tournaments for some reason. I just kept telling myself to wait for it to come and wait for it to happen and it looks like it's happening."
Liang is shooting for a second major title in the island-state after winning the Singapore Masters in 2007 en route to becoming China's first Asian number one. He eagled the par five seventh hole from 15 feet for an outward 34 before play was halted.
"I have a good chance now and I hit it good again. I missed some makeable birdie putts on four and six and I've got to remain patient tomorrow if I want to try to win the tournament," said the Chinese.
Unlike the other leaders who returned in the morning for the resumption of their second rounds, Liang enjoyed a lie in as he had finished up on Friday. "I'm feeling fresh. I've got to keep my focus which has worked well this week," he said.
Ernie Els of South Africa was lurking three shots back on five-under for the championship after playing eight holes of his third round in one-over while American world number two Phil Mickelson was two under after negotiating 15 holes in level par.
Singapore's Lam Chih Bing is also in the reckoning in his bid to make history as the first local winner. He is four shots off the pace and was on the 11th hole, even par for the round, when the bad weather rolled in.
"I'm playing nicely, so it's a bit disappointing to have to stop. I made one birdie and one bogey so I was just treading water. Not many players were making a move so I am lying in a good position. It is all very similar to last year and I think I should know how to handle it better this time," said Lam, who is hoping to become the first local winner of the Open.