Robert Karlsson took a step closer to completing a unique event hat-trick in the shadow of the Swiss Alps when a third round 68 gave him a two shot lead going into the final round of the Omega European Masters.
Two years ago Eduardo Romero led from start to finish in this tournament, a feat that was equalled last year by his fellow countryman Ricardo Gonzalez. Now after rounds of 65-66-68, Karlsson is poised to become the third wire-to-wire winner in a row in the event and the seventh in total of the 2002 European Tour season.
At the start of the day, the course was officially renamed the ‘Seve Ballesteros Course’ in honour of the Spaniard who largely redesigned the layout in 1999, and some of the escapes engineered by Karlsson around the greens during his third round were worthy of the Spanish maestro at his height.
"I holed a few and made a few good up and downs but I also had a few good chances for birdies which I didn’t take," said Karlsson. "So it was a little bit of both. I suppose normally it could have been six birdies and three bogeys for 68 but I am happy with that."
In total Karlsson made only three birdies, at the eighth from ten feet, at the tenth from four feet and and the 17th from ten feet, good enough for a 68 and a 14 under par total of 199, to move two ahead of his nearest challenger, Emanuele Canonica.
The diminutive Italian with the big tee-shot, used his length through the thin Alpine air to good effect, paving the way for seven birdies in total in his 65 which moved him to 12 under par 201.
"Sharing third place were three players on eleven under par 202, Trevor Immelman, who again moved within sight of his maiden European Tour victory with an excellent third round 65, 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie, who continued the form which saw him win in Wales last month with a 66, and Barry Lane who could even afford to drop a shot at the last and still record the best score of the week, an excellent seven under par 64.
Lane shot 64 in the third round at Crans-sur-Sierre in 1993 when he won the tournament and admitted the omens might be good for his first success on The European Tour since 1994.
"I am being patient, I’ve played well this year, only missed a couple of cuts this year by a shot and the other time was in Portugal when they only played two rounds anyway," said Lane. "It has been a big change around for me over the past couple of years, I just go out and play now and if it happens, it happens, fair enough and it seems to be happening."
Immelman, who was second in the Novotel Perrier Open de France and the Volvo Scandinavian Masters, admitted he was keen to get another chance to mount the winners’ podium.
"I really played well today, got off to a nice birdie, birdie start and just kept the momentum rolling and hopefully I can throw another one of those at them tomorrow," said the South African.
"I have been playing really well over the past couple of months and I’m really keen to try and get a win under my belt. But I am just trying to do the same things I have always been doing, trying to stay in the same routines and work at my game."
Lawrie, who was an impressive winner in The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open, continued to reap the rewards from sessions in the gym. "I am starting to feel I can hit it a little bit further and hopefully I can go out tomorrow and take advantage," said the Scot.
Behind the leading five players, Alex Cejka took sixth on nine under par 204 while Andrew Coltart, David Park and Sam Walker shared seventh on eight under par 205.