After staging the biggest comeback of The European Tour season to win the Smurfit European Open at The K Club, England’s Kenneth Ferrie now finds himself as the man everybody wants to catch going into the final day of the dunhill links championship over the Old Course at St Andrews, Scotland.
Ferrie carded a brilliant third round 67, five under par, at the Home of Golf to move to 13 under par 203 - five strokes ahead Argentine Ricardo Gonzalez, Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie and Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Despite producing a comfortable lead heading into the final round, it is evidence of the Englishman's new found confidence that he was upset he had not done better.
“I am a pretty fiery guy. I’ve shot 68-68-67 this week and just finished three-putt, three-putt. And even though I’m leading the tournament by five, by the standards I’ve set for myself that’s not good enough.
“I know in that wind it’s very tough, but it’s something you can’t afford to be doing - three-putting greens in my eyes is just giving shots away. If you miss a green with a three iron, that’s acceptable as everyone does that.”
Ferrie continued: “My whole game is based on fairways and greens. I’m not one of the power hitters. I can’t overpower golf courses, so any time the conditions are tough, like The K Club was, as this week is, as long as I can keep my head straight, then these sorts of conditions suit me.”
After his success at the Smurfit European Open in July, when he made up a seven shot deficit as others faltered, Ferrie has been working hard with his caddie to improve his touch on the greens. This usually involves half hour long putting drills before and after most rounds.
“A lot of credit goes to Dominic to have the foresight to do this. To make my day and his day that bit longer,” added Ferrie, who is in line for his third victory on The European Tour in the week that he turned 27.
The best round of the day across all three courses came at the more exposed Kingsbarns, where Stenson stormed through the field from tied 42nd for a share of second place after a seven under par 65.
Showing the form that made him the only unbeaten player at last week’s Seve Trophy, the 29 year old Swede reached the turn in just 31 after birdies at the second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth. He picked up three more shots before his serene progress stalled playing the wind-buffeted closing holes.
At the 565 yard par five 16th, Stenson drove into the rough and then pulled his second shot left. It took him two shots to hack his way onto the green and then two putted for a bogey six.
A par four at the 17th was equivalent to picking up a shot due to the high number of bogeys there during the afternoon, before a great up and down save at the last saw him finish on seven under for the day and eight under 208 for the tournament.
“I was very pleased with pars on the last two holes, especially on the 18th, where I had a bad stance in the bunker at the back of the green. My birdie on 15 was also very important as the last four holes were always going to be a struggle in these conditions,” admitted Stenson.
“My round was very enjoyable and I like Kingsbarns – I always play well here. But the key in that wind was to fight all the time to keep control of the ball.
“We have a lot of ground to make up on Kenneth, so it’s a case of getting out of the blocks quickly tomorrow.”
Alongside him in second place is Gonzalez, who fired a one under par 71 at St Andrews, and Montgomerie.
Montgomerie had started the third day as the leader by one following his scintillating 65 at the Old Course, but he could only manage a one over 73 at Kingsbarns.
He reached the turn in level par 36 after a brace of birdies and bogeys, before moving to one under (10 under overall) with a three at the 11th. The 42 year old made par at the next three holes but failed to take advantage of two strokes of fortune at the tricky 15th, a par three that covers 200 yards – much of which is ocean.
First, Montgomerie narrowly avoided the water from the tee, with his ball coming to rest just above the rocks. Hampered by a difficult stance, he sent his second well past the pin and watched incredulously as it failed to come back down the slope of the green.
Moments later, as he prepared to address his putt, Montgomerie noticed his ball begin to move and immediately walked away in the opposite direction as it rolled some 20 foot towards the pin.
The rules official was called in and confirmed Montgomerie had not addressed the ball and the Scotsman was allowed to putt from where it had come to rest. However, he missed and had to settle for a bogey four.
“I called the rules official and he told me it was okay. I wasn’t quite concentrating on what I was doing and I missed the putt. Never mind. It was a difficult day – I have a lot to make up tomorrow,” said a disappointed Montgomerie.
Sweden’s Pierre Fulke is a shot further back on seven under par, while a birdie at the last moved Paul Casey of England into sixth place on six under.
The team tournament is lead by Ferrie and his partner Jonathan Edwards, the former Olympic gold medal winning triple jumper. They are on 27 under par 189, four ahead of Stenson and Rurik Gobel.