Marcus Fraser of Australia and Frenchman Gregory Havret embark on the final round of The Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond in a ‘winner takes all’ situation should either of them capture the title and the £366,660 champion’s cheque.
Both men are contesting not only the tournament, but are vying for the last place available for next week’s Open Championship, which will be the property of the highest placed finisher, not otherwise exempt, in The Barclays Scottish Open.
Fraser signed for a magnificent seven under par 64 and was followed into the recorder’s hut 30 minutes later by Havret, whose third round 66 ensured that the two men are locked together on 144, 14 under par, knowing that it’s all to play for on Sunday on the banks of the loch.
New Zealand’s Michael Campbell lies a further stroke behind on 200 after shooting blistering 63 – the lowest of the week – with David Howell of England on 201 after a 67 and defending champion, Ernie Els of South Africa, sharing sixth place with four others on 203.
Fraser admitted that qualifying for the world’s oldest Major at Royal Troon is almost as great a motivation as winning the tournament – for one very good reason. The three time winner on the European Challenge Tour in 2003 withdrew from the Open International Qualifier in Malaysia due to a shoulder injury, then learned that he was no longer eligible to enter any subsequent qualifiers.
He said: “I think that’s the main motivation for the week. Everyone knows that there is one spot up for grabs and we are all trying to grab it. I feel a bit hard done by after pulling out of the qualifier in Malaysia and then couldn’t change the venue. It was a bit disappointing but you’ve just got to take it on the chin and get on with it.
“I didn’t complain or make a fuss. There will be other British Opens. I just wanted to move on and let my golf clubs do the talking. I think if you have a legitimate excuse and a medical certificate, you should be allowed to enter another qualifier.”
Fraser reached the turn in just 30 blows to threaten the course record of 62 held by Retief Goosen, last week’s Smurfit European Open winner. He also picked up shots at the 13th and 14th but a solitary bogey on the 17th halted the momentum.
Havret, meanwhile, has been similarly placed already this season, leading the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open TPC of Europe going into the final day, only to fall back into the pack. After a solid 66, in which he turned in only one shot more than Fraser required, the Frenchman is back at the head of affairs, albeit this time level with the Australian.
Havret commented: “Overall I am very pleased and, of course, having never played in the Open I really want to play it this year if that is possible. It was one of my goals at the beginning of the week and I know it will be a good battle as Marcus hasn’t qualified either.”
He added; “I was very calm today. My girlfriend arrived today so I am pleased she was here to watch. I do not know my tactics at this stage. I was two shots ahead at the Deutsche Bank and hopefully I will have learned from that.”
Campbell admitted he played “fantastic” with his eight under par score which came up just one stroke short of Goosen’s seven year old record. The Kiwi is back working with sports psychologist, Jos Vanstiphout again after a two year separation and he said: “I started seeing his last week and it has really paid dividends.
"We had great success before. We had worked for about a year and a half and he sat me down on Tuesday before this tournament and gave me a bit of an earful, really, and it seems to have worked so far. I am back to playing golf rather than thinking about other things.”
Howell, who double-bogeyed the eighth after suffering a plugged lie in a bunker, recovered superbly with a double birdie salvo at the ninth and tenth to shoot a 67 and force his way into contention for a first victory since the 1999 Dubai Desert Classic.
Els, the two-time winner and defending champion, made his presence felt with a round of 65 which could have been a couple of shots better. But at four behind, Els knows he stands a good chance of retaining the title if he gets his putter working.
“I was hoping to get a little more out of that round coming in but I didn’t manage to hole the putts I needed” he said. “I need a really low one tomorrow – lower than today. I had a five stroke lead last year but when you are chasing it’s a different mind set. You’ve got to try and make birdies on almost every hole.”