|Alvaro Quiros of Spain hits from a bunker on the second hole during the third round of the Hong Kong Open golf tournament at the Hong Kong golf club December 3, 2011. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
Fanling, Hong Kong - Alvaro Quiros was solid all afternoon in recording a three-under 67 on Saturday to take a one-stroke lead into the final round of the Hong Kong Open.
Quiros has flown under the radar while Rory McIlroy has taken the headlines early at Hong Kong Golf Club. It was the Spaniard, however, who had three birdies in a bogey-free round to grab the fourth 54-lead of his European Tour career.
Quiros, who finished 54 holes at 10-under 200, is looking for his sixth win on tour and second of the year. He has never posted more than one victory in a single season.
"I'm not going to complain if I'm leading the tournament," Quiros said. "But with a golf course like this, when people start to make putts, it's a dangerous position to be on top."
McIlroy, meanwhile, looked a little off from the start, posting two bogeys in his first five holes en route to an even-par 70. He slipped to fifth place at seven-under 203 and needs to finish in the top two to have a shot at overtaking Luke Donald in the Race to Dubai next week.
The 22-year-old U.S. Open champ didn't get his first birdie of the afternoon until the 13th hole, but managed to avoid any bogeys after his two early slip- ups. At only three strokes back, he is still squarely in contention.
Peter Hanson made one of the biggest moves on Saturday with a five-under 65 to move into second at nine-under 201. He's gunning for his fifth European Tour victory and first of 2011.
Y.E. Yang (65) and Pariya Junhasavasdikul (67) share third at minus-eight.
Unlike his playing partner McIlroy, Quiros didn't drop a shot on Saturday, and it helped him stay on top of the leaderboard all afternoon.
Quiros missed a couple long birdie chances early on, but none hampered him, and he finally got his first birdie at the seventh hole to move to eight- under. He had already grabbed sole possession of the lead after McIlroy missed a short putt at the fourth for par and followed with another bogey at the fifth, dropping him to minus-five.
Quiros remained steady with four straight pars from the eighth, but several players caught up to him as he rounded the turn. After parring the 11th, he stood tied with Yang, Hanson and Junhasavasdikul at eight-under.
But Quiros never faltered, posting a birdie on the 12th -- his third straight time going under par at the hole -- to again grab the lead, though Hanson birdied the last to keep pace.
While Hanson ran out of holes, Quiros still had six more, and an eight-foot birdie putt at the 17th put him at 10-under heading into Sunday's play.
"I've managed well," Quiros said. "Most of the holes are right-to-left, and I don't feel as comfortable with the fade. Little by little, I'm becoming a more complete player. If I'm able to keep myself up, I'll have a good chance on any course I play."
McIlroy recovered with two birdies on a flawless back nine, but his early troubles cost him a shot at playing in the final pairing. He still has a good chance, however, at his fifth straight top-five finish.
NOTES: Defending champion Ian Poulter (67) is tied for 11th at four-under 206...Yang has three European Tour wins, while Junhasavasdikul is winless in his career...Quiros had one of three bogey-free rounds Saturday.