Irishman Padraig Harrington, still awaiting his second win on the European Tour four years after his first, goes into the final round of the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open at Itanhangá Golf Club holding a two stroke lead over rookie Alastair Forsyth of Scotland.
The Dubliner shot a third round 71, one under par, to Forsyth’s 75 to turn a two stroke overnight deficit into a two shot advantage. However the inability of the main protagonists to draw clear of the field allowed several players to stake a claim to the first European Tour event played in South America.
That fact was not lost on Harrington, winner of the Spanish Open in 1996. After completing his 71 for a 16 under par total of 200, he admitted: “Being two ahead is not the issue. Now there are about ten players who can come out firing with a chance to win.”
Right behind the leading pair are Robert Karlsson of Sweden, Switzerland’s Paolo Quirici and Argentinian Jorge Berendt, all on 13 under par and just three adrift of Harrington.
Karlsson shot one of the best rounds of the day, a five under par 67, to make his move while a dozen players are within five strokes of the lead.
Both Harrington and 24 year old Forsyth had shot 62 the previous day to sweep clear of the field, but they found it difficult to recapture that level of performance in the third round. Harrington bogeyed the sixth and seventh to drop two behind Forsyth at the turn, but the young Scot gave the shots back at the long 15th, where he pushed his second shot behind a tree and ran up a double bogey seven.
Harrington suffered a bad break at the 17th when his glorious tee shot struck the pin six inches above the base. The impact and the spin carried the ball off the green, from where he failed to make his par three.
“It was a bad break not to make a two there, but my own fault for taking four”, he said. “However I made a very important sand save at the last. Alastair had a decent birdie chance and could have holed and I could have failed to get up and down from the bunker. I played a good shot and he missed to give me that two shot lead.”
Forsyth was far from despondent, despite shooting 75. He commented: “It was a struggle but I’m not out of it by any means. That’s the positive thing. Padraig hasn’t run away with it. Making a double bogey at the 15th was disappointing but I suppose this was to be expected after shooting 62.
“It was one of those days where if I missed a green I had a difficult shot and I couldn’t hole a putt either. It got better towards the end and there is all to play for tomorrow.”