Colin Montgomerie soared to the top of the leader board in the Volvo PGA Championship on the back of two glorious eagles in the third round at Wentworth Club.
Montgomerie, who had also eagled the 18th the previous evening to boost his chances of retaining the title he won so spectacularly last year, should not really have been surprised.
After all, the golfer has a caddie named Alistair McLean, and he wrote his own chapter of ‘Where Eagles Dare’ with three of those rare birds in the space of 19 holes to climb to the head of affairs on 206, 10 under par.
The Scot had holed from 12 feet the previous night for an eagle three, and after a birdie at the fourth in the third round, eagled the 12th and 18th to shoot a five under par 67 to join South African Retief Goosen in a share of the lead.
Goosen dropped two strokes over the last four holes for a round of 70. The leading pair are two ahead of Mark McNulty, who fired a 67, and Bernhard Langer, who escaped the possibility of a penalty at the ninth, to move back into the title hunt.
Montgomerie, though, was proud of his bogey-free round on a cool, damp day in Surrey – and especially the three eagles which have dictated the shape of the tournament for the European No.1 for the past six years.
He said: “Eagles really help the scoreboard and three of them in 19 holes is amazing. I came out last night and hit a five iron to 10 feet at the last and holed it. That got the tournament going for me. I was languishing at that stage. I was treading water to be honest.”
This time, Montgomerie, hit a four iron to 12 feet at the 12th and used the same iron to wonderful effect on the 18th, slotting in a ten feet eagle putt to end his round on a high note.
Now the stage is set for a duel among the trees and shadows at Wentworth Club between the six-time Volvo Order of Merit winner and the man who currently holds that position.
Goosen, who was four ahead at one stage before Montgomerie ignited his charge, said: “It’s going to be great tomorrow playing with Colin. I was in the final group with him at Slaley Hall a couple of years ago and he won it. So I know what to expect.”
McNulty, with his best round of the year so far, climbed up into a challenge position on 208. However while Montgomerie had fun with his eagles, McNulty’s caddie had problems with a different form of flying creature.
He joked: “A bird made a rather large deposit on the shoulder of my caddie, Basil, on the eighth tee. He said it was good luck – and I went out and made another seven birdies!”
Langer, the first round leader, shot a 70 – but he might have finished worse off had he been penalised two strokes for breaking a small branch off a tree at the ninth hole. However, after TV evidence was viewed, it was agreed that his practice swing had not been on the path of his actual swing.
Langer said: “My actual swing was two feet away from where the twig came off.”
Ernie Els shot an uncharactristic 74 but still isn’t out of contention on 209, seven under par. Montgomerie refused to rule him out, and Els is aiming for an imporvement.
He commented: “I hit the ball well from the tees but I got brain dead from the fairways to the green. Today was just crazy.”