Colin Montgomerie will attempt to collect his fifth title in one season – one outside the European Tour record – while his nearest adversary, Padraig Harrington, chases the Holy Grail of a Ryder Cup place in the BMW International Open at Golfclub Munchen Nord-Eichenried.
Montgomerie shot a third round 65 to add to his earlier 69 and 64 for a 54-hole total of 198, 18 under par. Harrington, one of his playing partners, showed a strong resolution by firing a 66 to stay in close touch one stroke behind the Volvo Order of Merit leader.
However the most important factor for Harrington is that he maintains his current status of second. That would be sufficient to ensure that the Dubliner collects enough points to finish in the 10th and last automatic place in the qualifying table with Robert Karlsson the prime sufferer.
It was exactly two years ago this week that Harrington lead by a stroke at halfway in the BMW International Open and ultimately finished tied for ninth place, missing out by one spot on an automatic selection.
This time, Harrington has his destiny in his own hands. He is five clear of four players in third position – Jean-Francois Remesy (66), Domingo Hospital (67), Phillip Price (68) and Ian Woosnam (68).
Harrington said: “I’m just going out to shoot the lowest score I can and if Colin finishes in front of me that’s going to be disappointing. If two people finish ahead of them that’s going to be doubly disappointing. I will not be looking at who is behind me. I’ll be looking forward.”
Montgomerie leads the Ryder Cup table by the length of a par five, and he had nothing but praise for Harrington’s sterling efforts. He commented: “I think Padraig deserves a lot of respect today. It was difficult going out knowing what he has to achieve. There’s an awful lot of pressure on him.
“He missed out on the team two years ago but it’s in his own hands now and good luck to him. He’s got his own little tournament to play, I suppose”.
One of the players who can spoil Harrington’s private party is Ryder Cup captain, Mark James, currently lying one place behind the Irishman. A James charge to take him past Harrington could still result in James qualifying by right and having to decide whether to play or captain the side.
Realistically, it should be Harrington’s place for the taking. Karlsson shot a 70 for 211, Andrew Coltart (11th) a 71 for 209. They are still in the hunt, but whatever happens all will be revealed by dusk on Sunday night.