Thomas Bjorn scorched down the back nine to take a five-shot lead into the final round of the European PGA Championship on Saturday.
The 43-year-old Dane fired a spectacular 67, including seven birdies in the final eight holes to come home in an incredible 30, to show the rest of the field a clean pair of heels.
“I had a terrible start with some poor decisions, but I settled myself down and knew I could play this back nine pretty well. I got the momentum and kept it going,” Bjorn said. “I’m in a strong position going into tomorrow [Sunday], but the job is not done yet. There is a lot of golf to play and I know there are top guys just behind me who can shoot very low as well. So I have to maintain my concentration and form to the end.”
Bjorn, who produced a storming course record 62 on Thursday, suffered a double-bogey at the first and then another dropped shot soon after, but after falling back to seven-under he turned in a stunning burst of birdies between 11 and 16 to set another record for consecutive birdies.
He had a shortish putt on 17 for another, but it just grazed the outside of the hole to leave the Dane a little frustrated.
Yet he pulled himself together to finish in style with a seventh birdie on the back nine and complete another memorable day. Not many would bet against Bjorn picking up his 16th European Tour title.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who carded a disappointing 73, led at the start thanks to Bjorn’s poor opening, but he finished on eight-under with England’s Luke Donald, a two-time winner of the tournament, one stroke ahead of him.
Donald fired a fine 68 to be 10-under and the nearest challenger, and joined Bjorn in the final group yesterday. He birdied the final two holes, while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is a shot further back after a 69.
“Thomas was on fire and it was hard staying close to him,” Donald said. “I’m happy with a bogey-free round, but it will be very tough stopping him tomorrow if he continues in this vain. He’s playing outstanding golf right now, but it will be fun and exciting playing with him in the last pair.”
“I would have to shoot ridiculously low tomorrow to have any realistic chance, but even then Thomas is so far ahead,” McIlroy said.
Heavy rain had delayed the start of the third round, with the pairs becoming three-balls in order to get the round completed. Italy’s Franceso Molinari hit the lowest round of the day with a 65, but he was still nine shots adrift of the leader.