Shanghai, China (SportsNetwork.com) - Defending champion Alexander Levy carded a 1-under 71 on Saturday and moved into a share of the lead after 54 holes at the China Open.
Levy finished three rounds at 8-under-par 208. He was joined there by first- round co-leader David Howell (68), Ashun Wu (69) and last week's runner-up Hao-tong Li (69).
Levy will look to become the first player to repeat as champion at this event. Howell is a five-time winner on the European Tour, while Wu and Li are both searching for their first tour victory.
Magnus A. Carlsson fired a 7-under 65 to soar into a tie for fifth place at minus-6. He stands alongside Prom Meesawat (68), Richie Ramsay (70) and Seve Benson (66). Carlsson and Benson had the two best rounds of the day at Tomson Shanghai Pudong Golf Club.
Second-round leader Julien Quesne stumbled to a 4-over 76 and fell into a share of 10th at 4-under-par 212.
Levy got off to a flying start with birdies at one and two. He poured in a 60- footer for birdie at the par-3 third and made it four in a row as he also birdied the fourth.
"It was the perfect start for me, but after that I got a little bit nervous, because I haven't played well for three months now, so I haven't been in this position for a while," Levy admitted.
Levy stumbled to a bogey at the fifth to dip back to 10-under. After eight consecutive pars, he dropped another stroke at the 14th. Levy bogeyed the 15th as well to fall back to minus-8. He parred the final three holes to end there.
"It's nice to be back at the top of the leaderboard, but I have to get used to it again," said Levy. "I'm just really happy to be playing some good golf again, that's more important than me worrying about winning the trophy again."
Howell started slowly in round three as he opened with six straight pars. He caught fire beginning with back-to-back birdies at seven and eight.
The Englishman soared to 9-under as he birdied three of the first four holes around the turn. Howell faltered to a bogey at the 14th, then parred the last four holes.
"It was a very nice day for me. I felt like there was a score to be had out there, and I adapted to the conditions much better than I did yesterday, when I struggled with the comparative softness of the course. I knew what to expect today, and took advantage," Howell said.
"I really got it going nicely around the turn. I had a few chances early on which I didn't take, but I managed to stay patient and eventually the birdies came."
Wu dropped a shot at the second and followed with three pars in a row. He converted a birdie effort at the sixth. Following a birdie at the ninth, Wu made the turn at minus-6.
The 29-year-old birdied the par-5 13th for the first time this week, but gave that stroke back as he bogeyed the 16th. Wu jumped into a share of the lead thanks to birdies at 17 and 18.
Li, a playoff loser last week, did all of his scoring on the front nine. He bogeyed the second for his first dropped shot since his 12th hole, No. 3, of the first round.
He erased that mistake with a birdie at the fourth. Li vaulted to 8-under with three birdies in a 4-hole span from the sixth. He parred all nine holes on the back nine.
NOTES: Levy owns a piece of the 54-hole lead for the fourth time on the European Tour ... He won one of the three previous times he was in that position ... Howell has won three of the eight times he had at least a piece of the 54-hole lead ... Wu and Li each have a piece of the third-round lead for the first time in their European Tour careers.