Friday, 19 March 2010

David Howell continued his love affair with BMW when he moved into pole position after the penultimate round of the BMW International Open at Golfclub München-Nord, Eichenried. Being little more than three months after his memorable triumph in the BMW Championship – The Players’ Flagship at Wentworth Club, and 12 months after his win in this tournament in 2005, another victory in Munich on Sunday would see the Englishman complete a notable BMW treble.


The 31 year old, who came from one shot behind to win by a shot last year, will start this year’s final round two clear of the field after a third round 66 gave him a 14 under par total of 202. In fact, his lead could have been greater but for the fact he drove into the water on the 18th hole and ran up a bogey six.


Howell, however, remained upbeat about his overall position. “Obviously I’m delighted because this is certainly the best effort I’ve had at maintaining a trophy to date,” he said.


“Although it was disappointing what happened at the last, a two shot lead is a good position to be in and I would have taken it starting out I guess. But the job is not done by any means. I’m going to have to play equally as well tomorrow for sure.”


The truth behind that statement was borne out with a quick glance at the impressive chasing pack which must have European Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam beaming with delight at the sight of a third of his team for The K Club lying in the top five.


For, aside from second round leader Sweden’s Martin Erlandsson, who carded a 69 for a 12 under par total of 204, the two nearest players to Howell on that mark are his team-mates Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington while Henrik Stenson shares fifth place with England’s Simon Khan on 11 under par 205.


While Harrington and Montgomerie both shared excellent days at the Munich course, the Irishman carding a 64 while the Scotsman matched Howell’s 66, their preparation for the final round could not have been more polarised if they had tried.


For while Harrington turned down the opportunity of a 90 minute drive to Stuttgart to watch Ireland play Germany in their opening fixture of the 2008 European Championship qualifying campaign, Montgomerie decided to fly to Glasgow to take in the Robbie Williams concert at Hampden Park, as well as briefly appearing on stage with the pop legend brandishing The Ryder Cup trophy itself.


While a few eyebrows were raised at what deemed an unorthodox approach to a final round while in contention, Montgomerie took the opposite view.


“People might say I’m mad but it relaxes me doing things like this when I’m in contention so I’m going,” he said. “I’ll be on stage with the Ryder Cup at about 9.30pm – I’m not singing so don’t worry! – and then I’ll get the plane back and be in my bed by about one o clock in the morning. I don’t sleep much before then normally so there’s no problem.”


There were certainly no problem for Montgomerie on the course either, not dropping a shot in his round and rattling in six birdies in total, including an unlikely one at the par five 18th. A wickedly hooked second shot flew into the stands from where he got a free drop in the dropping zone. His difficult pitch then hit the pin and finished seven feet from the cup from where he stroked the putt home.


Alongside Montgomerie, Harrington did not drop a shot either and was even more impressive in the quest for birdies, collecting eight in total, including four in a row from the 13th, amidst a run which saw him card six consecutive threes from the 12th to the 17th.


“I knew I needed to shoot a good score today to give myself a chance,” he said. “It’s not a big problem when you are only a couple of shots off the lead but if you start five or six shots behind then you really have no chance. Hopefully I’ll be within shouting distance tomorrow.”


Another two men who matched Howell and Montgomerie’s 66s were Stenson and Khan to share fifth place while the high quality feel to the tournament was emphasised by the fact that amongst the six players in a share of seventh place on ten under par 206 was two time US Open Champion Retief Goosen.


In terms of The Ryder Cup position in this, the final counting tournament in the European Team qualification race, the position is clear.


Barring a complete collapse by Montgomerie in the final round, it looks highly likely the Scot will finish in the top 47, thus relegating José Maria Olazábal from the Ryder Cup World Points List to the tenth and vulnerable final spot – below Paul McGinley who missed the cut – on the Ryder Cup European Points List.


While that is bad news for the Spaniard, the good news for Olazábal is that, for him to fall out of that list too, one of the three players who can oust him will have to perform a minor miracle.


England’s Paul Broadhurst, who has to finish third or better, is currently in a share of 30th place on six under par 210, six shots behind the current third place score.


Sweden’s Johan Edfors, who has to finish second or better, is currently in a share of 54th place on three under par 213, nine shots behind the current second place score.


And Denmark’s Thomas Björn, who has to win the tournament, is currently in a share of 39th place on five under par 211, also nine shots adrift of the current leader Howell.


It will take a lot for any of the trio to come through but, as we all know, golf can be a funny game. It promises to be an intriguing final afternoon.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1STENSON, HenrikSWE18-15
T1GOOSEN, RetiefRSA18-15
T4HOWELL, DavidENG18-14
T6DONALD, LukeENG18-13
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