Friday, 19 March 2010

(Reuters) - Former club professional Damien McGrane's blistering finish at Kennemer Golf and Country Club left the Irishman three strokes ahead of the field at the end of the third round of the weather-disrupted KLM Open.

McGrane, who only began his European Tour career three years ago after working in a Wexford club shop for years, made a huge advance on his maiden title by scattering the field with four closing birdies in a seven under par 64 which hauled him to pole position on 12 under par 201.

On a day of low-scoring, fellow Irishman Peter Lawrie, the 2003 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year on The European Tour was the first to shoot 64 to share second place with Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy (67) and England’s Simon Dyson (66).

What was a course record 64, though, did not last for long as Australian left-hander Richard Green broke it further with a 62 that left him in a share of fifth place, a further stroke back, with another Frenchman, Christian Cévaër, and Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen.

Leader McGrane, who still has time for members at his new club, Knightsbrook, in Trimm, County Meath, said he was happy to be shooting it out with his compatriot Lawrie, who will play with him in the final round, but hoping to ward off his friend to prove his transition from club to touring professional was the right decision.

"My game had improved so much over the last ten years that I felt it was time for me to leave the type of business I was in," said McGrane. "Now I feel I have something to prove - that I made the right decision – and I'm looking to crack that nut by winning.

"It will be great playing with Peter and I hope he does well, but I do just that bit better."

Lawrie's latest bid to go one better than his play-off defeat in the 2003 Canarias Open de España was boosted by seven birdies uncluttered by any dropped shots as he changed his putting fortunes dramatically.

Whereas he took 33 putts in the second round, he needed only 25 to run his fellow-Irishman close.

Colin Montgomerie was another to see a marked improvement in his putting. The eight-times European number one also gave himself encouragement for the up coming US PGA Championship with a 67 which left him with an outside victory chance, seven shots off the lead.

Montgomerie ditched the belly-putter that had caused him to three-putt four times in the first two rounds and bought a normal-size model from the Kennemer professionals’ shop for €179. A putting lesson from former Tour professional and John Hawksworth, now a television commentator, also helped Montgomerie who is now targeting a closing 62 to back up his tournament favourite status.

Paul McGinley was another Irishman to find encouragement from the third round. McGinley's 66 also left him seven shots off the lead, but with a chance of picking up a useful haul of Ryder Cup points in the final round to consolidate his tenth place on Europe's Cup table.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1DYSON, SimonENG18-14
T1GREEN, RichardAUS18-14
3MCGRANE, DamienIRL18-13
4CÉVAËR, ChristianFRA18-12
5HOUSTON, GarryWAL18-11
6LAWRIE, PeterIRL18-10
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