World No. 3 Lee Westwood hurt his leg and slid out of contention at the French Open, while fellow Briton David Howell and Denmark’s Anders Hansen grabbed a share of the lead after a weather-interrupted third round on Saturday.
Westwood slipped and injured his groin walking to the first tee while talking to playing partner Richard Sterne’s caddie, before dropping seven shots in his first six holes en-route to a five-over 76.
The Englishman was 12 shots behind Howell (67) and Hansen (69), who finished on six-under 207, a stroke ahead of South African George Coetzee (70) and two in front of Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin (70) and Germany’s Marcel Siem (73).
“I felt like I strained something in my groin in the right leg and just tweaked my right knee as well. I didn’t really have a lot of confidence in it,” Westwood told reporters.
“I tried not to overdo it on the first few holes and I lost everything down the right,” added Westwood, who also suffered an injury to his right calf and ankle in Paris in 2010. “This tournament has been a curse for me the last few times I’ve played it.”
Fellow Englishman Howell is within sight of a first European Tour victory since 2006 after firing a four-under round in testing conditions that caused a 35-minute stoppage to let a thunderstorm pass.
“The confidence is building by the day and today’s round was important for me. To play such a nice round, I was very pleased for my confidence,” said the four-time European Tour winner, who is now down at No. 350 in the world rankings.
Howell reached the top 10 six years ago following wins at the Champions Tournament in China in 2005, where he outscored playing partner Tiger Woods, and at the PGA Championship at Wentworth.