Two golfers from Down Under were up on top of the leaderboard in the TNT Dutch Open at Noordwijkse Golf Club as Stephen Leaney and Stephen Allan occupied the leading places after the third round. Leaney, the 1998 champion, stepped up his bid for a double Dutch with a seven under par 65 for a total of 201, 15 under par, to lead Allan by three strokes going into the final day.
Allan, a past German Open champion, shot a 69 to take second place on 204 but a trio of heavyweights are lurking right behind the top two – defending champion Lee Westwood, two-time winner Bernhard Langer and Sweden’s Mathias Grönberg on 205, 11 under par.
On a day of warm, hazy sunshine, the coastal Dutch course became a birdie sanctuary for the main contenders on the leaderboard. Leaney’s 65 equalled the best of the day, established earlier by Dane Soren Kjeldsen.
Westwood, who came from five behind to win with a closing 63 at Hilversum last year, made a positive move by firing a six under par 66. Langer, who triumphed over the same Noordwijkse links in 1992 after a play-off with Gordon Brand Jnr, went round in 68 while Grönberg, the nearest challenger to Leaney, bogeyed the final two holes for a 69.
Allan made one birdie on the outward half and eagled the 11th on his homeward run, but was unable to cash in over the last five seven holes where Leaney, Westwood and Langer all profited.
The stage is now set for a superb climax in the last round and Leaney and Westwood will recognise the similarities to 1998. On that occasion Leaney was two strokes clear going into the fourth round and held on to claim his second European Tour title.
This time, Westwood is four back – but he demonstrated his class twelve months ago by turning a five stroke deficit after 54-holes into a one shot win over Scotland’s Gary Orr.
Westwood said: “If I’d putted this week I’d have been dangerous. Some weeks you can see the lines better than others so to have missed so many short ones and still be this close to the lead shows the strength of my long game.”
The English Ryder Cup player made a couple of mistakes but finished strongly with a pair of birdies to bite into Leaney’s lead, which was extended thanks to four birdies in an inward 32.
Leaney, 31, recalled his lead over Westwood two years ago but said: “This course is much like Hilversum in that you can never have a big enough lead around here because the course can be taken apart. There are a lot of birdie holes and I will have to go out and break 70 to win.”
A series of lessons from English professional, Dennis Pugh, set Leaney on the right track after he had suffered a lapse in confidence in 1999. He added: “Since going to Dennis just before the Irish Open I’ve got some confidence back and my putting touch has also returned. It’s amazing what some little swing thoughts can do for you.”
Langer, who picked off a couple of twos coming home for a 68, was cursing a couple of mental errors but remarked: “I would like to have been a bit closer. The last hole was disappointing when I left my birdie putt short dead on line. You can’t win doing that.”Round 3 Video HighlightsLeaderboardRound 4 Tee Times