Saturday, 07 October 2006

After the low scoring of the first two rounds at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the Scottish wind got up to turn the traditional moving day into a damage limitation exercise as some of the world’s best players were blown down the leaderboard at Carnoustie, Kingsbarns and St Andrews. At the close of a testing third round, Bradley Dredge remained in front but the Welshman had seen his three-shot overnight lead whittled down to one by Irish Ryder Cup player Padraig Harrington.

Dredge, who claimed his second European Tour title last month with a convincing victory in the Omega European Masters, battled to a one under par 71 at a windswept Kingsbarns and sits atop the leaderboard with a 54 hole aggregate of 13 under par 202.

Harrington, the 2002 champion, moved into second place thanks to a three under par score of 68 at Carnoustie. It was a fine performance from Harrington at a venue where the average score was 73 and a timely one given his outside hopes of winning The European Tour Order of Merit for the first time.

The Irishman, who is leading the team competition by three strokes alongside amateur partner JP McManus, said: “I played well early on and hit it superb for 11 holes. Coming home I hit some good and some bad shots and made some bogeys. While I was disappointed to make the bogeys it was a tough, tough golf course.

“With a couple of big events to go I knew if I could win one that would put me back in the mix for the Order of Merit. It’s still a long shot but I am using that as a motivational tool.”

Dredge’s motivation - aside from the obvious attraction of the substantial first prize of €630,566 - is to realise his own Order of Merit ambitions while also taking huge confidence into his defence of the WGC-World Cup alongside fellow Welshman and friend Stephen Dodd in December.

He said: “I set my own goals. Ryder Cup was a goal but I never played well enough for that. I’m starting to play well now after the Ryder Cup and if I can finish the year off well I will get to where I was aiming at the start of the year. I was looking towards top 15, top 10 on the Order of Merit.

“I take some confidence from my victory in Switzerland and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I will be playing with Padraig Harrington and he’s a good guy, so I will enjoy that.”

Starting Sunday’s final round in third place will be the unheralded American Edward Loar, who is making the most of his opportunity after earning a place in the tournament courtesy of his position on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.

Loar was round in 70 at St Andrews to move onto nine under par, one stroke ahead of South African Ernie Els and World Number Five Vijay Singh of Fiji, who could do no better than level par and one over respectively at Carnoustie.

It’s all set up for a fascinating final day at St Andrews where Dredge set a new course record of 64 on Thursday, although he admits to still not being totally comfortable at the Home of Golf.

“I am still learning the course – you never really master that course. Even now I stand on the seventh tee and I still look and think, well, I think that’s the line but you are never 100 per cent. You are never quite sure around there, but I am looking forward to it. I believe the wind is supposed to die down a bit.”

One man who certainly can’t be ruled out tomorrow is Joakim Bäckström, who had the round of the day on Saturday, a five under par 67 at St Andrews to move from a share of 53rd place overnight into tied sixth.

Els, though, believes he will require lower than that tomorrow if he is to win his first title of the season.

“Bradley is playing great and I think it needs a 65 or something. I have the number in mind but I have to be patient with it. You don’t have to make seven birdies in the first seven holes although that would be nice,” said Els.

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