Thomas Björn takes a two shot lead into the final round of the BMW International Open as he chases his second victory in this event in three years. But home favourite Bernhard Langer, aiming to win this title for the first time, is right on his tail alongside Richard Bland.
Björn, who has not won since beating Tiger Woods in the Dubai Desert Classic 18 months ago, fired a six under par 66 at GolfClub München Nord-Eichenreid to move to 18 under par 198. Langer birdied the last to huge cheers from the German galleries to complete a round of 67 and close the gap to two. Bland matched his total with a round of 69 as he chases his maiden title in his rookie season.
After two birdies in the first eight holes Björn stepped up a gear with four birdies in five holes from the ninth to put daylight between himself and the chasing pack. The Dane, who finished three ahead of Langer to win the title two years ago, dropped his only shot of the day on the 14th but pulled that shot back with a birdie three on the 16th. With the tee moved forward, many players were tempted to go for the green but Björn took the conservative option, hitting a six iron and sand wedge to convert his three. A birdie putt on the last from 15 feet after he found the bunker lipped out but his two shot lead was maintained.
“It was a good day,” said Björn. “I did what I had to do. Got off to a bit of a loose start, hit a few loose shots early on. But I did all the things that I could do to keep people at bay. That was the important thing.
“It’s been a while and it is nice to be in the mix and feel comfortable about it. It’s been a long time coming and I feel my game is coming together. I feel all the hard work I have done is just starting to benefit me on the golf course. I am getting back to thinking right on the golf course. It’s progressing nicely.
“There’s a day tomorrow when I have to go out and shoot a number because this golf course you cannot go out and be defensive in any way. Somebody is going to shoot low tomorrow so it is a case of going out and be as aggressive as I have been the first three days.”
In contrast to Björn, Langer went for the green on the 16th but pulled his drive into the woods. A great recovery found the green but three putts proved costly. But Langer, who has won 11 times in Germany, winning every title except the BMW International Open, hit back with two birdies to finish to keep his hopes of a 12th title on home soil alive.
“I’m not 100% but much better than yesterday,” said Langer, referring to his battle with food poisoning in the second round. “I hope to be in really good shape tomorrow.
“I’m happy with my position and it’s always my hope to win but I have played all three rounds with Thomas and seen from close range that he is in good shape and very good form, especially on the greens. He only missed one putt from two or three metres.”
Two months ago Bland lost a four man play-off for the Murphy’s Irish Open but the confidence he gained from that experience is holding him in good stead. Five birdies and two bogeys kept in very much in the frame for a first title and he will go out alongside Björn and Langer in the final group on Sunday.
“We were talking in practice and there is only one draw you want to get out here and that is with Langer,” he said. “Just his professionalism on the golf course, not that you would stand there and watch him as you would focus on your own game but you can’t not learn from him. To play in his homeland in a German tournament, the spectators will be 20 deep out there. It will be fantastic.”