By Christopher Powers
Marc Leishman was on track to run away and hide on Saturday at the CIMB Classic, opening his third round with an unconscious six-under 30 on the front nine at TPC Kuala Lumpur. It was a typical run we’ve come to know from the Big Aussie, him quietly going about his business while simultaneously looking like one of the four or five best players in the world.
But a pair of back-nine bogeys opened the door for the rest of the field to keep pace, including Leishman’s two playing partners, second-round leader Gary Woodland and India’s Shubhankar Sharma. The trio nearly matched each other shot for shot, Woodland and Leishman carding five-under 67s while Sharma edged them both by a stroke with his six-under 66. Once again they will all play together on Sunday, setting up what should be a fascinating final 18 holes in Malaysia, as they’re all tied at 19-under 197.
“They’re playing good,” said Leishman, who is looking for his fourth PGA Tour victory and his first since the 2017 BMW Championship. “I think we’re all playing well. Whoever ends up winning tomorrow, whether in my group or not, is going to go low. Hopefully, it’s me, but we’ll have to do something good tomorrow.”
A win for Sharma would be his first on tour, and it would prove last year’s breakout performance at the WGC-Mexico Championship was far from a flash in the pan. The 22-year-old picked up a pair of victories on the European Tour last season, so it’s not like he doesn’t know how to get it done.
“Good thing is that I’ve been in this position before and I’m in it again,” Sharma said. “But the good thing also is that we’re in Asia and I’m going to get a lot of support from all the fans. I know what to do and what not to do, so I’ll just try and relax as much as possible and come back tomorrow strong.”
Like Leishman, Woodland is also in search of his fourth PGA Tour victory, and a win would give him victories in back-to-back seasons, something he’s never done in his career.
“This golf course sets up good to my eye,” said Woodland. “I’ve been playing well coming in. It’s nice to be in contention and have a chance tomorrow. Excited about my game and where I’m at.”
Bronson Burgoon and Louis Oosthuizen sit in a tie for fourth at 17-under 199.