Thomas Björn of Denmark, New Zealand’s Michael Campbell and England’s David Lynn and are all poised to strike out for a victory in the Nissan Irish Open at Portmarnock, Dublin, which would mean so much to all three for hugely contrasting reasons.
Björn is determined to win as the perfect antidote to last week’s disappointment when he saw the Open Championship slip through his fingers at Royal St George’s. Lynn would love nothing better than to become the 14th first time winner on The 2003 European Tour International Schedule while Campbell has the incentive of ending a fallow 12 months by capturing the title in front of his parents who have flown across from New Zealand.
An adventurous round of 68 by Björn – he carded only six pars in a mxed bag of eight birdies and four bogeys – saw him move back into the position he held after a first round 64. This time, however, he had to share that position with Campbell (71) and Lynn (72) on 206, ten under par.
Two players are just one stroke behind the leading trio, Robert Karlsson of Sweden, who signed for a third successive 69, and England’s Greg Owen, whose 68 for 207 gives him an outstanding chance of following up his victory in The Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters last month.
Björn admitted that “nothing is going to make up” for the errors which denied him the opportunity to win the Open Championship, but he knows that a triumph will at least partially assuage the self-inflicted pain of last Sunday.
He said: “I could win the next three events and it wouldn’t make up for it. Nothing will make up for last week until – if – I win a Major Championship. The only thing is would mean to me is that I am doing the right thing and I can go out on this Tour and still be a force to be reckoned with.”
Campbell started like a hurricane with two birdies, spilled three shots by the 12th then regrouped to birdie the par five 13th and 16th. He said: “Winning would mean a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and the reassurance that I can be a winner on The European Tour again. I never doubted I would get back into this position. Never.
“I’ve been through it before and I didn’t like it. I knew I had the talent and the determination. The support I’ve had from everyone over the last 12 months has been outstanding. We traveled for 12 weeks straight early this year in the States and the family was getting pretty ‘ratty’ by the tenth or 11th week. Now we are back in Brighton, the kids go to school there and if they are happy, I’m happy.
“My mum and dad are here and it would be pretty special to win in front of them. They’ve seen me win once before in the New Zealand Open three years ago but winning tomorrow would be even more special.”
Lynn had a slow start but a majestic tap-in birdie two at the 15th propelled him back into a share of the lead which he held outright at halfway. Becoming the 14th first time winner, just short of his 30th birthday, would greatly increase his peace of mind.
Earlier this season Lynn led going into the final round of the Dubai Desert Classic and finished third. Victory has eluded him so far but he said: “I have been in the last couple of groups five times this year so that is pretty good. It gets the juices going a bit and it’s just a case of being patient. You can’t force things under these circumstances.”