‘Happy Chinese New Year Shot’: Wu Ashun produces fireworks on Day 3 of Omega Dubai Desert Classic
The Chinese heads into Sunday's final round at Emirates Golf Club with a one-shot lead over Victor Perez with defending champion Bryson DeChambeau a further shot back
Wu Ashun began with a bang on Saturday, which given the landmark occasion back home, felt rather apt.
“That's my ‘Happy Chinese New Year Shot’,” said the Xiamen-born golfer, after he exploded into action during Day 3 of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic with an eagle from distance on the opening hole.
Having found the rough with his drive, Wu’s approach landed on the fringe, then hurtled towards the pin and dropped for an unlikely two. It catapulted him into a tie for the lead. After a brief delay, he thrust his arms in the air in delight.
"First hole and second shot is unbelievable for me for a very good start to No 1,” Wu said. “I didn't know I holed it and the gallery went wild, so I was very happy.”
Wu concluded the round in positive mood, too. More fireworks - a chip-in for four on the par-5 third and three successive birdies to open the back nine - built at one point a four-shot lead.
A bogey on 16 pulled him back to 11-under par but, once he signed for a 67 and the day’s play concluded, Wu boasted a one-shot advantage. Victor Perez sat second, with defending champion Bryson DeChambeau, Kurt Kitayama and Tom Lewis all a single stroke further back. Another four players, including world No 10 Tommy Fleetwood, were within four of the summit.
Wu, 34, has never previously held the solo lead after 54 holes on the European Tour. As a three-time winner, though, he knows what it takes when in contention.
“Oh, that's always a good experience for having a great spot there on the weekend,” he said. “So very comfortable and very relaxed for the weekend and playing the final round.
“Tomorrow is a great day for me, I think, and I'm always happy to play the final round in the final group. So just enjoy the game and play your best: best game, best round tomorrow and let it happen. That's it.”
Ranked 366th in the world, Wu has not won since the 2018 KLM Open. Last season, he finished 137th on the Race to Dubai, while last week he missed the cut in Abu Dhabi.
In contrast, Perez arrived in Dubai in fine fettle. The Frenchman finished in a tie for second in the UAE capital, and continued that form on Saturday around Emirates Golf Club.
Perez began his back nine with four birdies and closed with two as well, to match Wu’s 67. Thus, the world No 47 remains in a strong position to secure a second victory on tour.
However, DeChambeau looms large. Only two off the lead, last year’s winner struggled somewhat before picking up a couple of shots across 17 and 18 to maintain hopes of retaining the trophy.
Considering the American’s been feeling more than a little under the weather, that's pretty good going. It turns out Saturday wasn’t much of an improvement on the previous round - at all.
“I'm worse today,” DeChambeau said. “I couldn't hear anything out of my right ear until No 13 when it finally popped and that was helpful a little bit. But, boy, was it a struggle out there for me on the greens today.
“That's OK, I'm going to go work on it a little bit. Hopefully have that ready to go for tomorrow.”
Last year’s win, by a tournament record low at 24-under, was impressive. Getting the job done this week while ill would most probably be just as satisfying.
“It would be incredible,” said DeChambeau, who didn't even make the weekend in Abu Dhabi. “Being under the weather and fighting through some of the stuff that happened last week and persevering this week would be a tremendous honour.”
As for the Sunday forecast of 40-kilometre winds, he blustered: “Let's bring it. I love it.”
Updated: January 25, 2020 07:44 PM