Rolf Muntz and Sergio Garcia, the last two winners of the Amateur Championship to be played at a famous links course in Muirfield, will be in the final group at another majestic links, Ballybunion, with the Murphy’s Irish Open title on the line.
Dutchman Muntz, winner of the Qatar Masters but with ten missed cuts from 13 starts to his name this year, shot a third round 68 for a 15 under par total of 198. He leads by two strokes from defending champion Garcia (66) and Patrik Sjöland of Sweden (71).
Muntz, the Amateur winner at Muirfield in 1990, goes head-to-head for the first time with the 1998 champion Garcia. He admitted: “I wouldn’t know if that’s coincidence. Ask me tomorrow. I like links golf and I like the win. That much I do know. I played a lot in Britain as an amateur and Scotland naturally. Quite a bit of links golf.”
The Dutchman made four birdies and just one bogey to establish a two stroke lead, but the bookies favourite is now Garcia, who won his first professional title in the same event last year at Druids Glen.
After 25 holes of the tournament, Garcia had dropped to eight strokes off the lead but fought back with six birdies. In the third round he made a further six, in addition to a solitary bogey, for a round of 66 which puts him right back in the frame.
He commented: “My recovery has been very good since my four bad holes yesterday. I’ve been making very few mistakes and I think my game is in good shape for the last round. My putting has been good so everything looks ready.”
Asked if he now expects, rather than hopes, to win, he added: “Of course I am expecting to win this tournament because I am hitting the ball pretty well and everything is going pretty good. If you start well it’s always good because you can put pressure on your opponent.”
Sjöland, the first and second round leader, slipped back with a double bogey at the 12th and bogeys at the 14th and 15th, but finished with a flourish, picking up shots at the final three holes, to sustain his challenge.
“It was good to get it back. It didn’t feel very good but I hung in there. I made a few mistakes and lost my focus but fought back nicely and I’m still in there.”
Paul McGinley shot a five under par 66 to become Ireland’s leading challenger on ten under par – five behind Muntz. He conceded: “I am going to need some help from the others if I’m going to contend. I have a feeling I’m a little too far back but we’ll see.”Day 3 video highlights