Saturday, 20 March 2004
Greg Hanrahan aims to follow Mark O’Meara and become the second ‘fortysomething’ American winner on The European Tour in the space of three weeks as England’s Barry Lane seeks to end a sequence of 249 tournaments within a victory in the Caltex Masters, presented by Carlsberg, Singapore, 2004.

Former US Army Private Hanrahan celebrated his 46th birthday by shooting a five under par 67 at Laguna National Golf & Country Club while Lane, just three months short of his 44th birthday, matched that score, leaving both poised for a final day shoot-out on 203, 13 under par.

The leading pair are two shots clear of local favourite Mardan Mamat of Singapore, who was tied for the lead with two holes remaining but double bogeyed the 17th to sign for a round of 70 and an 11 under par total of 205.

Four players come next in the pecking order on 207, South Africa’s James Kingston (70), Frenchman Thomas Levet and Jonathan Lomas of England – who posted the low rounds of the day with seven under par 65s – and the familiar figure of Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie.

The seven-time Volvo Order of Merit winner completed his second bogey-free round and picked up five birdies for a 67 and Montgomerie goes out in the penultimate group on the last day aiming for a strong finish and sufficient world ranking points to secure a place in next week’s Players Championship in the United States.

However Lane has victory plans of his own, ten years after the last of his four wins on The European Tour International Schedule, the Turespaña Open de Baleares. He admitted he could scarcely believe that 249 tournaments have elapsed since that success, but pointed out: “It is very difficult to win out here.

“It was difficult in the nineties with Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer, Lyle, Woosnam and Olazábal all playing at the top of their game and I managed to win four events in that time. It was the same with Mark O’Meara the other week in Dubai. He hadn’t won since the Open Championship in 1998 while John Daly’s recent win was only his second since the Open in 1995. That shows how hard it is to win.

“You never forget how to win, or that feeling, but it is very difficult. Today I went out one shot behind and shot 67 and although I’m now tied for the lead I’ve gone nowhere really and everybody else has moved up. You have to play well every day on this Tour.”

The former Ryder Cup player, who will be 44 in June, produced the putt of the day when he eased in a 40 footer for a birdie on the 16th while Hanrahan bogeys the same hole to leave the pair locked together and preparing for another day in each other’s company.

“He played absolutely beautifully and hit some fantastic shots. It wasn’t a bad days for the old boys, was it? It’s Greg’s 46th birthday today so not bad – 90 years between us!”

Hanrahan, a true enthusiast who has played in 167 out of 176 events in Asia since 1995, joked: "That was a nice birthday gift, but I'm not letting my mind race ahead anywhere.

"It would be awesome to win but the whole key to success is one shot at a time. I'm not going to get ahead of myself. Yes, I would love to play on The European tour sometime and I am making plans to try the Qualifying School in Europe. However I have to try and secure my Asian Tour card first."

Lomas, who finished tied 18th in last week’s Qatar Masters, did not take long to make a huge leap forward. At the first hole, the Englishman drove into the trees, selected a six iron and punched a superb shot under a tree all of 155 yards into the hole for an eagle two. He then reached the turn in 30 and followed that with 35 home for a 65, matched by Levet who had halves of 33 and 32.

Montgomerie, currently 51st on the Official World Golf Ranking, dragged himself up the leaderboard with a solid 67 and said: “I played well but burned the edges of the hole a few times. I’ve only had one bogey all week – that’s good but I haven’t made enough birdies.

“A good start is required tomorrow. If I can get something like three under after four holes then it’s a different ball game.”

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