Darren Clarke earns share of lead at Nanshan China Masters

Last Updated: 13/10/13 12:31pm

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Darren Clarke: Has dropped only three shots in 54 holes

Darren Clarke: Has dropped only three shots in 54 holes

Sky Bet

Darren Clarke gave himself a great chance to claim his first victory since the 2011 Open Championship as he earned a share of the lead at the Nanshan China Masters.

The popular Ulsterman carded a second-straight four-under 68 over the Montgomerie Course at Nanshan International in Beijing to join defending champion Liang Wen-chong at the top of the leaderboard on eight under par.

Clarke birdied two of the first three holes before dropping just his third shot of the tournament at the next, but he got back on track with further birdies at seven and eight.

The putts dried up after the turn, but he picked up a shot at the long 15th and parred safely in to set the clubhouse target, but he soon had company at the top when Liang birdied 15 and 18 to card a battling 70.

"There is pressure in any event, it doesn't matter whether it's the Open Championship or here at the Nanshan China Masters," said Clarke.

"I've practised really hard these last couple of years since I've won the Open and just not been able to get the scores.

"I would be delighted to win here, but there's 18 holes of golf to go and a lot of talent there or thereabouts at the top of the leaderboard."

Liang, whose astonishing second-round 64 featured an eagle, 10 birdies and four bogeys, is looking forward to playing in Sunday's final group with Clarke.

"He is a very respected player and as the local I'm ready to face his challenge and will try my best to play well," said the home favourite.

The leaders have a two-shot lead over Liang's compatriot Zhang Xinjun, South Korea's Kwon Sung-yeol and Australian Scott Strange, while 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is a further stroke adrift.

The South African picked up three birdies in a row from the 14th in his four-under 68 as he joined Terry Pilkadaris and Gareth Paddison on five under.

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