Padraig Harrington, who has spent most of the past fortnight in front-running mode, goes into the final round of the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe at Gut Kaden, Hamburg, determined to convert a lead into an overdue victory.
The Irishman led, or shared the lead, for two rounds of last week’s Benson and Hedges International Open but had to accept second place behind Paul Casey of England at The De Vere Belfry. This week he was joint leader for one round and out on his won after 36 and 54 holes.
A third round of 70 put Harrington back on top by two strokes on 201, 15 under par, and he goes out in the final round with an Irishman from the north side of the border, Graeme McDowell, who shot a four under par 68 for a total of 203.
Denmark’s Mats Vibe-Hastrup fired a third round 66 to climb into a tie for third with South Africa’s Retief Goosen (70) on 204 while another dozen players are tucked away menacingly within five of the lead.
Harrington, winner of the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan at the start of The 2003 European Tour International Schedule, admitted he “fell asleep” – figuratively, not literally – on the course a couple of times but emerged relatively unscathed with just one bogey and three birdies in his round.
“I felt good about things” he said. “I didn’t hole many putts, which was disappointing because the potential was there to knock in a few more and give myself a substantial lead going into the last round.”
McDowell, who won the Scandinavian Masters on only his fourth start on The European Tour after turning professional last year, is relishing the first opportunity to play alongside Harrington in the final group. He explained: “Padraig is a great role model for young players like myself and it’s going to be cool playing with him. He’s certainly got a methodical approach and I am looking forward to seeing how he plays.
“The European Tour is a fun place to play right now because of the young blood out here. Seeing what Paul Casey has done gives all the young players hope, especially the guys like myself who came through the college system.”
Another son of Northern Ireland, Darren Clarke, moved to within one stroke of the lead at one stage but took a double bogey at the 16th on his way to shooting a round of 69 for 205. On that same mark is 1999 Open Champion, Paul Lawrie, and England’s Anthony Wall, whose 64 is the lowest round of the tournament to date.