Jimenez strikes an early blow for 2002

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The Independent Online

A three-putt on the 18th green cost Spain's Ryder Cup player, Miguel Angel Jiminez, the outright lead going into the final round of the BMW Asian Open here in Taiwan.

Instead he shares the lead on seven under with Sweden's Carl Petterson, with France's Thomas Levet and the overnight leader, Jarmo Sandelin, a shot behind. Welshman Stephen Dodd and England's Brian Davis are another stroke adrift on five under with the double Masters champion, Jose Maria Olazabal, three off the lead after a level-par 72.

"I played very well and made a nice birdie putt on the 16th from 30 feet and nearly holed the first putt on the 18th," said Jimenez, who partnered Sergio Garcia to joint sixth in the World Cup in Japan last week. "But on the second one something was going through my mind and I missed it.

"Sometimes you think you are concentrating but your mind is open to anything that goes through it. But it is always nice to be under par and I'm hitting the ball well. If I can keep my concentration I will be there."

Jimenez finished 20th in the Order of Merit, mainly thanks to his joint third finish behind David Duval in the Open at Royal Lytham, but is without a win on the European Tour since claiming the Volvo Masters in 1999. "This year has been up and down," the 37-year-old from Malaga, one of Europe's best players in the Ryder Cup at Brookline two years ago, admitted.

"Trying to play on both the European and US Tours is tough and I also had tennis elbow at the start of the year that stayed with me until June. But I intend to play both sides of the Atlantic again next season."

As far as the European Tour is concerned next season actually begins this week with this tournament the first to count towards the 2002 Order of Merit.

That would mean Pettersson would technically be denied a victory in his rookie season if he wins on Sunday, but such issues will not concern the young Swede if he caps a fine year with his maiden title. The 24-year-old finished 61st on the money list and is confident he can go one better than his second place behind Angel Cabrera in the Open de Argentina in March.

"It feels nice to be leading," said Pettersson, who came through the qualifying school last November to earn his card. "I've had a good year but it's been a while since I was in contention and it's nice to be playing in the last group.

"Finishing second in Argentina proved to myself that I could win out here. I gave it a good shot but Angel played a little better than me but it proved that if I play well I can win and that's something I will be thinking about tomorrow which will give me some extra confidence."

Compatriot Sandelin led by three shots at one stage after his third birdie of the day on the 10th but then dropped three shots in the space of four holes to card a level-par 72.

Levet matched Pettersson's 69 to join Sandelin on six under but the expected challenge from Vijay Singh, twice a winner in Asia earlier this year, failed to materialise. The former Masters champion could only manage a 73 to lie four shots behind while Nick Faldo fared even worse with a 74 to finish on one over.

Over on Australia's Gold Coast, Stuart Appelby shot a four under par 67 to join his fellow Australian Scott Laycock in the lead going into the last round of the Australian Open.

Appleby and Laycock went into the final round on seven under par, three ahead of Ernie Els with Geoff Oigilvy a further shot adrift. Rod Pamling was the only other player under par on the Greg Norman-designed Grand Course.

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