As Ryder Cup fever swept around Golfclub München Nord-Eichenried, two players who have already confirmed their respective places in Bernhard Langer’s European Team - Miguel Angel Jiménez and Thomas Levet - gave the Captain good reason to smile as they forged their way into a share of the lead after the third round of the BMW International Open.
The duo’s fine golf dominated the leaderboard in the final counting event towards Ryder Cup qualification, Levet’s round of the day 63 being the shining light but he was closely followed by Jiménez’s 67 which left both men on 15 under par 201, two shots clear of Austria’s Markus Brier and Retief Goosen of South Africa.
Levet’s golf, in particular, was as hot as the glorious Munich sunshine which baked the huge crowds and which provided a perfect backdrop for Europe’s top players to exhibit their considerable golfing skills.
Unsurprisingly, Levet did not drop a shot to par, the highlight of his nine under par round – which was only one shot outside a share of the course record – being a fine eagle three at the ninth, which propelled him from the chasing pack into a lead he was not to relinquish.
“It was just one of those days when everything clicked together,” said the Frenchman, who won his third European Tour title in July in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. “All in all, when you shoot nine under par in one day, there can’t be much wrong with your game, so it is pretty good.
“Nothing is far off as far as my game is concerned and it is pretty solid in every department. So I’m all set for The Ryder Cup and actually I’m looking forward to it. I’d like it to be tomorrow!”
What does await tomorrow is the final round of a golf tournament which has more than lived up to expectations, and the man who will provide the closest challenger to Levet is Spaniard Jiménez who continued to produce golf of the highest quality.
Already a three time winner on The European Tour International Schedule in 2004, the Spaniard gave himself the ideal platform to attempt win number four with a fine third round 67, his third consecutive round in the 60s, having opened with 68-66.
Unlike Levet, Jiménez did drop shots to par - at the tenth and 17th - but more than made up for those blips on his radar with seven birdies elsewhere, including three in his last four holes, a run which propelled him into a share of the lead.
“I just love this place,” said Jiménez. “I very much like playing in Germany. I used to play a lot here because the course conditions and the weather is fantastic. The people are so great as well so I am very happy here.”
In a share of third place, Brier and Goosen carded respective rounds of 67 and 68 for a 13 under par total of 203, the reigning US Open Champion birdieing the last to move within two shots of the lead, while Brier went one better, eagling the 568 yard hole to complete a superb inward half of 30.
While those four players led the race for the BMW International Open and the €300,000 first prize, two of the four players in a share of fifth place, led the race in the tournament’s secondary subplot, namely qualification for The Ryder Cup.
Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson and Colin Montgomerie of Scotland carded respective rounds of 68 and 67 for a 12 under par total of 204 to keep alive their hopes of booking a ticket for the flight to Oakland Hills.
For Montgomerie the task is simple. Unable to play his way into the team automatically, the 41 year old Scot will have to produce a performance good enough to persuade Langer – his playing partner during the win at The De Vere Belfry two years ago – to give him one of the two wild cards available.
Certainly he is in good position, but so are the three other players widely touted as challengers for the wild card spots – Jacobson himself, alongside England’s Luke Donald and Alex Cejka of Germany – who both ended their third rounds in a share of 14th place on nine under par 207.
However, Jacobson is in a different position to the Scot, the Englishman and the German, namely, he is the only one who can still play his way into the team automatically, a win in the tournament being sufficient to achieve that goal.
Should that happen, of course, one of the three players currently occupying the eighth, ninth and tenth automatic selection places, David Howell, Ian Poulter and Paul McGinley, would have to drop out.
But that talented trio made sure it would be a fight all the way to avoid being the one as all three muscled their way into the top 20 going into the last day, McGinley ninth on 11 under par 205, while Howell and Poulter shared 18th place on eight under par 208.
The final round promises to be one of high drama peppered with almost constant use of the calculator for the main protagonists.