Dutchman Joost Luiten produced a flawless third round six under par 66 to move one shot clear of his rivals at 13-under par at the Irish Open on Saturday.
“It’s always good if you have a round with no bogeys, especially today, as it was quite tricky there with some rain in the beginning and some strong winds in the afternoon,” said Luiten who captured the Lyoness Open last month in Austria.
“I’ve been playing good the last two weeks, the last three weeks actually. I now just need to go out there tomorrow [Sunday], and try to do the same, and hopefully that’s enough to win the trophy,” he said.
Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal, also with a round of 66, is in second place at 12-under par and while Ireland’s four Major winners in Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke missed the second round cut, Luiten is under no illusion he still faces a tough assignment if he is to capture the prize.
“You really can’t worry about who is behind you on the leader board as the key for me will be trying to get some early birdies to help set up a good score,” Luiten said. “So I am not bothered who is behind me.”
“I won [last month] in Austria and that is always good to get under your belt as it just makes things a little easier, and it also makes you strive that little bit more for the win when you’ve got a recent victory in the bag,” he said.
“So I’ve got nothing to lose and that’s how I am going to approach the final round,” the Dutchman said.
Larrazabal’s last success was two years ago in the BMW International Open in Munich.
“I had a lovely day in the office today with the Irish crowds truly awesome,” he said.
“I’m playing good. I didn’t play as good the last three months, so I feel I am hitting the ball good and will now fight for the tournament. I hope tomorrow I can hit the ball as good as these three days and hole as many putts,” he said.
England’s Robert Rock (71) is in third place on 10-under par and still within sight of making amends to losing out in a play-off for the 2009 Irish Open.
Two players, England’s Paul Casey (67) and rookie Scotland-born Scott Henry (69) are tied in fourth place on nine under par.
A tumultuous day at the AT&T National ended with a four-way tie for the lead heading into yesterday’s final round at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
Roberto Castro chipped in from 80ft after hitting his approach into the water to save par at the 18th and complete a 71 to join the group at seven-under-par 206 along with Andres Romero of Argentina, and Americans Bill Haas and James Driscoll.
Long-hitting Jason Kokrak, who powered a 349-yard drive at 18 on his way to finishing a 70 for 207, was one stroke ahead of Tom Gillis and South Korea’s Charlie Wi.
Wi made nine birdies, including seven on the front nine, on his way to a 65.
On a long, hot day for many players, who had to come in early on Saturday to finish their weather-interrupted second rounds, there were dramatic swings on the leaderboard at the long, rough-lined layout where numerous pins were placed on the edge of trouble.
Haas had nine birdies and only five pars in a three-under 68 that included a triple bogey and three other bogeys.
“Certainly, could have been a six, seven, eight-under day,” Haas said. “But it also could have been a four, five, six-over day if I hadn’t putted well.”
“You can’t blame being tired, it just was a long day and I didn’t feel it with the golf swing. Luckily when I did hit a good shot, I was able to make a putt,” he said.
Jordan Spieth, a 19-year-old who began the round sharing the lead with Castro, took an early two-shot advantage after opening the round with two birdies to reach nine under par before he slipped back to four under, three strokes off the pace.
Romero, who had to finish five holes to complete his second round, made four birdies on the front side in the third round to climb to 10 under par and seize a three-stroke lead.
However, the Argentine double-bogeyed the 11th, where Haas also tripled, and bogeyed the 12th to set up the logjam at the top as player fortunes rose and fell throughout the round.
Castro lost the lead he had shared with Spieth heading into the round as he bogeyed the second hole and double-bogeyed the third.
However, he worked his way back with four birdies, including at 16 and 17, as the leaders faltered to make it a foursome atop the leaderboard going to the final round.
Driscoll’s round was relatively dull with five birdies and just two bogeys. He shot 68 and is the only player in the field with three rounds in the 60s.
“It’s not perfect golf, but you don’t really have to play perfect golf sometimes, if you’re just patient and putt well and have a good short game,” Driscoll said.
“There is no let-up. Every hole is long and tough. The rough is up. it’s just 18 tough holes out there,” he said.