Robert Karlsson takes a two shot lead into the final round of the BMW International Open, birdieing the final hole at Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried for a one under par 71 to move to 16 under par and put clear water between himself and the field.
While Karlsson is chasing his second BMW International title, having won here in 1997, and sixth European Tour title, there is a wealth of talent hot on his heels seeking victory with Marcel Siem leading the home challenge on 14 under par.
That total was matched by Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin and the English pair of Brian Davis and Gary Evans. A further shot adrift is Lee Westwood, the 2000 Volvo Order of Merit winner and yet another Englishman John Bickerton, runner-up here last year.
Once again it was Karlsson’s dominance of the par fives which kept him ahead of the field as, on the 11th hole, he picked up his fourth eagle of the week, albeit in slightly more unconventional manner to his previous three. Having pulled his drive down the left side, the tall Swede got a flier out of the rough with his second shot, the ball shooting through the green into the back bunker. With the ball resting on a downslope and very little green to work with, Karlsson played an exquisite shot which duly disappeared down the hole.
The 16th hole, where the tee had been moved forward to tempt players to play for the green, was a different story as Karlsson, having hit only four fairways all round, opted to play a five iron off the tee only to push the shot into the water. That cost him a bogey five but regained his two stroke advantage with his second birdie of the day on the 18th.
“It was not an easy day out there, very different from the other days,” said Karlsson. “You feel you should shoot 67, 66 but today it wasn’t like that. I played the last three holes in this kind of weather yesterday but apart from that I was very lucky. Today was a completely different golf course. In the end I was pretty happy with a 71.”
Victory would be the perfect fillip for Karlsson who goes one to defend his Omega European Masters title at Crans-sur-Sierre next week. “Perhaps this is my time of year,” he quipped.
Both Davis and Evans have been models of consistency this season with a host of top tens between them. All that is missing this season is that winning breakthrough.
Davis last tasted victory when he won the Open de Espana in 2000 and so far this season has twice been runner-up and picked up six other top tens including joint sixth place in the Open Championship.
A quick lesson from coach Peter Mitchell resulted in a slightly slower takeaway on his putting stroke and the change seemed to do the trick as he rolled in seven birdies, including four in succession from the turn, for a 65.
“On this course you know you have to shoot low and got off to a great start, nice and solid, made a few putts to get the rhythm going and then caught fire on the back nine,” said Davis.
“I was seven under starting the day and that is nowhere round here. You have to shoot a low one and that is my low one. Hopefully I can follow it up with an even lower one today.
“The difference between winning two or three times has come down to making a few putts. Coming down the stretch I could have picked up a couple of shots and been in the lead by two. But now I am going to go out and practice and look forward to tomorrow.”
Evans has yet to enter the winners enclosure but he has been regularly knocking on the door with 11 top tens in the last 12 months. An unfortunate three putt on the last after the perfect drive and approach shot took the edge of his 68 slightly but he remains firmly in the hunt.
“You just need to be in the right place at the right time and that is on the podium.” Said Evans. “That is the place you have got to be. It will be a good day tomorrow and I am looking forward to it. You keep getting in position and just have to keep doing it and hope it is your day and not somebody else’s. You have to be fairly philosophical sometimes, sometimes people throw tournaments and sometimes people steal them. I don’t care how it comes, I just would like it to come.”
Siem is aiming to become the first German to win the title in only his second season on The European Tour. The 23 year old, a former member of Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried, picked up seven birdies with three dropped shots en route to a 68.
Siem has three top tens under his belt, his best being fifth in the Diageo Championship at Gleneagles, but this is the first time he finds himself joint second going into the final round.
“I just want to go out there, play my own game and enjoy it,” said Siem, who is sure to draw a large gallery in the second last pairing tomorrow.
Westwood could be a major threat as he seeks his first victory since his bumper year of 2000 when he won seven times around the world. With Bernhard Langer’s former caddie Pete Coleman on the bag as well Westwood has plenty of experience to draw upon.
“I felt I hit a lot of good shots,” he said. “If I had birdied two of the last three which I felt I should have done 68 would have a good score and I would have been tied for the lead. All in all pretty good. I am there or thereabouts. I am in contention and within striking distance. Feeling good and looking forward to tomorrow.”
The defending champion Thomas Björn is also within striking distance, hovering ominously at 12 under par and only four shots off the pace on a course where he has won two out of the last three years.