Australian Peter Lonard takes a one stroke lead into the final round of the Nissan Irish Open after recovering from a triple bogey six on the par three seventh at County Louth Golf Club to post a level par 72 for a ten under par total of 206, edging him ahead of compatriot Brett Rumford.
South African James Kingston is a further shot back on eight under par but the round of the day belonged to Ireland’s Paul McGinley, the Ryder Cup hero jumping from the cut line to joint fourth with a stunning six under par 66, his accomplishment highlighted by the fact he was three better than any other player in the field.
The home crowd will also have Padraig Harrington to cheer tomorrow after the Dubliner recovered from an outward half of 40 with a back nine of 32 which included six birdies to lie on five under par in joint tenth place and only five off the pace.
Lonard, a winner of six titles in Australia, is chasing his first victory outside his home country in his quest to win on all the world’s major golf tours. The World Number 47, who lives in Florida, has finished runner-up three times on The European Tour International Schedule and will be looking too break his duck at Baltray.
Starting the final round two clear of the field, Lonard picked up two birdies in the first six holes to establish a three stroke lead but all the good work was undone on the par three seventh. Missing the green on the right, he found a horrible lie. His first attempt to find the green got halfway up the slope before rolling back to an even worse spot which necessitated chipping out backwards. His fourth shot found the putting surface but 40 feet from the hole from where he two putted.
Another shot was given back on the next hole, but Lonard steadied the ship over the back nine, picking up two shots to par for a level par 72.
“I think I played pretty well,” he said. “Apart from the shot I hit up seven I was pretty much in control the whole deal. Yesterday I said I needed to play the par threes well and I don’t suppose a triple bogey is in that sort of category.”
Asked what it would mean to hang on and win, he replied: “When I started playing again in 1997, I wanted to win in Australia which I accomplished in 1997 and my next aim was to win in Europe and the other main Tours in the world - Europe, America and Japan. If I can win tomorrow I would be one closer to the goal I set myself at the start. And hopefully winning breeds winning and I can move on to another level.”
Rumford is the leading challenger, a two under par 70 leaving him just one off the pace on nine under par 207, his caused helped by a 30 foot birdie putt across the 16th green. Rumford won for the first time when he led from start to finish in the dual ranking As St Omer Open last year but feels if he could take the title, it would be his first major victory with the quality field gathered in Baltray.
“It was a tough day today. Even that front nine was pretty tough albeit the easier nine in calmer conditions. I three putted the par five sixth from the front edge which was a little disappointing. But you have to grind it out over the whole 18 holes.”
Kingston finished where he started on eight under par and two off the lead but it was McGinley who caught the eye. Playing in just the second group out after qualifying for the weekend right on the mark, McGinley tore through the field one the toughest day of the week so far with some stunning play over a course he knows like the back of his hand.
As an amateur McGinley was a member here, playing his winter golf over the testing County Louth layout, and he used all his local knowledge to play the course in 66. Four birdies and just the one dropped shot in an outward half of 34 was the start of a great round and the birdies continued to flow as he raced home in 32.
“That was huge,” said McGinley. “I am very proud of the way I made the cut yesterday. Things weren’t going for me yet I was able to shoot two under on the back nine to make the cut on the mark. Played some very difficult holes well. That gave me a psychological boost as well for this morning.
“I have had a lull over the last month where I feel I have played really well and not got the results. But that is part of the game. Sometimes you have got to deal with things like that, I have had a lull. Everybody goes through patches like I have just gone through. I have said many times, I have been in situations worse than that and come through. I’ll have them again in the future in my career when things just don’t go right. Today hopefully is the start of a run in the other direction.”