Peter Lawrie entered the week comparing himself to the Gingerbread Man as he prepared to fend off the challengers to his position as the man in the Race to Dubai hotseat.
Ranked 60th in the money list, he knew he was the man to catch and needed a good week in the UBS Hong Kong Open to have any chance of making next week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship for the year’s top 60 money winners.
But after a pair of 68s all by guaranteed him his place at Jumeirah Golf Estates, a third round 67 left the 38-year old Dubliner just three shots behind leaders Michael Campbell and Miguel Angel Jimenez and in with a chance of notching his first tour win since the 2008 Open de España.
“Played lovely to be honest with you,” Lawrie told European Tour Radio’s Nick Dye as he finished his day tied for sixth place with Dane Anders Hansen. “I missed a few chances out there but from tee to green I was very good today. My game has been good.
“I was under a little bit of pressure at the start of the week, being in 60th position (in the Race to Dubai) and everyone trying to pass me. I nicknamed myself the Gingerbread Man at the start of the week, but I have just played solid and hopefully I can continue and shoot a similar score tomorrow and give it a run.”
Jimenez, who can break Des Smyth’s record and become the oldest winner in the history of the European Tour on Sunday, reckons that the winning score will be around 13 or 14 under par.
But Lawrie went for 12 as the magic number and hopes his name is alongside that number as he chases his second tour victory.
“I’d be very happy if I was sitting on the terrace with 12 under tomorrow,” he said after a round featuring four birdies and just one bogey. “I need to go a little bit lower tomorrow but we’ll give it a go.”
Lawrie feels he has his DP World Tour Championship place more or less wrapped up after opening with a brace of two under 68s.
“With a few of the other lads not doing as well it looks good for making the Race to Dubai but we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” he said.
Lawrie is now targeting the title and he admits that he probably should have been thinking that way from the start given his liking for the venue.
“I shouldn’t be coming here looking over my shoulder. If I was to circle a few tournaments at the start of the year where I think I’d have a chance, this would be one of them. It’s a shaper’s golf course, you have to put it in play and be good around the greens. It just suits me and there are very few drivers out here.
“It’s precision more than length for sure. There are a lot of three woods for position off the tees for position and mid range irons. You are going to hit it to 10 feet but you are not going to make them all so you have got to be patient as well.
“Looking at the way I played today, if I continued that tomorrow, I would be very happy.”
Asked about his relatively quiet season - just two top-10 finishes and no top-threes for the first time since 2007 - Lawrie admitted that he was overdue.
“No, I have been a bit lacking in that department. I haven’t been up there as much this year and had far more chances (to win) the last couple of years.
“I had one little purple patch in May/June [fourth in the BMW PGA at Wentworth and eighth in the ISPS Handa Wales Open] but I haven’t really been challenging so I am looking forward to this tomorrow.”
Jimenez shot a two under 68 as Campbell scrambled his way to a 69 to leave them tied for the lead on 10 under, one stroke clear of Singapore Open winner Matteo Manassero (64) and China’s Lian-wei Zhang (69) with Swede Fredrik Anderson Hed a further shot back on eight under.
“Today was sort of scrappy; apart from a couple of drives, it was pretty average really,” said Campbell.
“But once again, I just managed to grind out a score, which is very important with me not playing so well. I turned a 73 into a 69, which is always nice.
“I’ve still got a chance to win tomorrow, and that’s what I wanted to do after three rounds - give myself an opportunity to go out there and hopefully lift the UBS Hong Kong Open trophy.
“Once again Miguel is playing great golf, and he’s won this twice before and he’s the man to beat.
“It’s going to be a very interesting day tomorrow and it’s going to be I think a lot of fun; it will be nice to be a part of it.”
Jiménez has won 11 of his 18 European Tour titles since turning 40, but the last of those was two years ago in Switzerland.
“I love to be in contention,” said the 48-year old, who can break the age record set by Smyth, who was 48 years and 34 days old when he took the 2001 Madeira Islands Open.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been there and I’m happy and I like this golf course.
“I like to be in contention on this golf course and you have to have patience and let everything happen. That’s what’s going to happen tomorrow, stay patient because anyone can win.”
If Jiménez wins, he will set a new record of 48 years, 10 months and 13 days.