The third day of a Major Championship might be traditionally referred to as ‘Moving Day’ but the Saturday of the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes will be remembered for exactly the reverse.
After an enthralling day’s golf which featured everything from albatross twos to double bogey sevens, nobody took the opportunity to move into control, leaving 19 players within two shots of the lead held by Alex Cejka, David Duval, Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam on six under par 207.
Best performance of the leading quartet came from Duval, who moved up the field in search of his first Major title with an impressive 65, but Cejka, Langer and Woosnam upheld a strong European Tour presence at the head of affairs.
The logjam feeling was further strengthened when an incredible nine players ended the penultimate round on five under par 208, including the European Tour sextet of Darren Clarke (69), Pierre Fulke (72), Rafael Jacquelin (69), Miguel Angel Jimenez (67), Colin Montgomerie (73) and Jesper Parnevik (71). They were joined by Americans Billy Mayfair (67) and Joe Ogilvie (71) and 1994 Champion Nick Price of Zimbabwe (68).
At the head of affairs, playing partners Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam proved an inspiration for each other as the old Ryder Cup stalwarts both carded 67s to move into contention for their respective first Open Championship success.
Highlight of Woosnam’s round was an eagle three at the 542 yard 11th where he fired a two iron to within five feet of the flag and holed out. Langer dropped a shot at the last after finding a fairway bunker from the tee but was more than consoled with his six birdies elsewhere.
Langer’s greatest escape however came at the demanding 465 yard 15th where he put his three wood tee shot found a bunker before his nine iron escape hit the rim of the trap and careered across the fairway.
It left the German with a six iron shot to the green and when his ball finished 45 feet from the pin a bogey five looked inevitable. But Langer’s steely determination shone through again as he stroked the perfect putt home for an unlikely four.
“It feels really good to be in contention in a tournament I’ve always wanted to win,” said the 43 year old. “It is a great feeling the reception you get walking onto every green, you can sense the knowledge the crowd has. They cheer for every player regardless of where they are from.”
The German also took time out to offer a word of praise for his fellow countryman Alex Cejka, who dramatically turned around his recent form which has seen him miss three of his last four cuts.
“I suppose Alex is a surprise to most people as he hasn’t had the best of years but he must be playing great stuff to be where he is in this tournament,” said Langer.
“I’ve always thought he could make it to the top and perhaps he has always been a little bit of an under-achiever. But he has a great swing, I like the way he plays the game, and he can win tournaments believe me.”
Aside from his eagle at the 11th, Woosnam rattled in birdies at the sixth and 15th and showed his will-to-win, bouncing back from his only dropped shot of the day at the 16th, with a 20 footer for a birdie three at the 17th.
“I’m very pleased with a 67,” said the Welshman. “The condition of the course is pretty favourable and set up for good scoring. The greens are faster than they have been and it is just a case of getting the ball in the right place.
“Every British player wants to win the Open Championship. This is my 20th year and I think I’ve only had something like four top tens – that’s not a great record. Perhaps I have been a little too aggressive in the past but it just the type of player I am.
“Tomorrow I will go out and see what happens. Experience will be important and I think I have learned now to be patient when it is called for and not take on the pins at the wrong times. I’m not going to put pressure on myself though – I’ve been there and done that – I’m just going to try and enjoy it.”
Cejka moved alongside the trio with his third round 69 but the outcome could have been better for the 30 year old for when he birdied the 14th, he moved into a two shot lead in the tournament overall at nine under par.
But the three time winner on The European Tour International Schedule stuttered slightly over the closing stages, dropping shots at the 15th, 16th and 17th before steadying matters at the last with a par four.
“The last few holes were a little bit trickier, a little bit more difficult because the wind came up and when that happens and you don’t make good shots, you get punished for it,” he said. “But I was not nervous. I was just trying to play hole by hole and if I get a little bit lucky tomorrow and play well, then anything is possible.”
Of the nine players on 208, the most relieved was Colin Montgomerie, who started the day one shot clear of the field and who could have had serious concerns about being further behind than only one stroke after shooting an untidy 73.
“I didn’t have the best of days but I scored 73 and am only one off the lead so it is still anyone’s Open,” said the seven time Volvo Order of Merit winner. “My goal was to get into contention and I’ve done that.
“I putted poorly on the front nine, three putted the eighth,, missed a putt at nine, picked up at ten and 11 but chucked it away again at the 13th. My driving wasn’t causing any problems but my putting was - having said that I misread them more than mishit them.”
Another player not to have the best of days was defending champion Tiger Woods, who included a double bogey seven at the seventh after a trip into the deep rough, in a round of 73 which dropped him back to one under par 212 for the Championship, five shots off the lead.
“There are a lot of players between myself and the lead and it is going to be quite a test tomorrow and hopefully I can get off to a good start, but I do need some help from the weather,” he said. “I need to have the weather pretty tough so that it will be hard for the leaders to go low. But hopefully I can post a good round.”