Frenchman Raphaël Jacquelin grabbed a one shot lead after the third round of the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters on a day when Delhi Golf Club showed what a true test of the game it can be.
It might only be just over 7000 yards long but its narrow fairways, demanding bunkering and penal bushes, allied to a tricky wind, showed that a golf course does not need to be long to produce a thorough examination of all the clubs in the bag.
The perfect illustration of that was the fact that of the leading nine competitors at the end of the third round were a cumulative four over par for their rounds – not the type of figures you expect to see at the business end of a golf tournament.
Therefore, it was perhaps fitting that the man leading the way, Frenchman Jacquelin, ended his day in a stand-off with the golf course after a level par round of 72 for a six under par total of 210. Highlight of the round was a 15 foot putt for eagle three on the 14th but outside that, three bogeys and one birdie were his only other departures from par.
The 33 year old from Lyon has shown his prowess in Asia before, winning the 2007 BMW Asian Open in Shanghai and admitted he was glad to be in pole position on the continent once again.
“I don’t know why I like to play in Asia but it is true,” he said. “I think a lot of people think that the golf courses out here are not very good but that is not the case because we play a lot of great courses (in the co-sanctioned events),” he said.
“I like the travel and whereas I wasn’t that confident on the grainy greens when I started out I am certainly getting used to them now.”
Three men shared second place one shot adrift of the Frenchman on five under par 211, the Irish duo of Graeme McDowell and overnight leader Damien McGrane who did not fire on all cylinders with respective third rounds of 73 and 75, and Spain’s José Manuel Lara, who produced one of the anomalous rounds of the day.
While the majority of the field peppered their cards with bogeys and birdies alike, the Spaniard was consistency personified, posting 17 pars in total with only birdie to deflect from that, holing a 20 footer for a three on the sixth hole.
“I thought the course is similar to the one I won on in Hong Kong, not long but tight and maybe this is why I like it so much,” he said. “You have to be very smart around here and you have to concentrate all the time, it does play on your nerves. We’ll see how I handle that tomorrow.”
While the top four challengers are European, the bulk of the home support will go with the two Indian golfers who ended the third round in a share of fifth place on four under par 212 – Arjun Atwal and S.S.P. Chowrasia.
While the leaders will be concentrating on their own games in the final round, they might well be forgiven for sneaking a peek over their shoulders at the menacing figure of pre-tournament favourite Ernie Els who stormed back into the picture with an excellent third round 69 for a two under par total of 214 and a share of tenth place going into the final day – only four shots adrift of Jacquelin.
After his horror quadruple bogey nine on the way to an opening 75, the three time Major winner has been gradually battling back into the tournament and although, when he finished his round with the leaders still to go out he felt he had left a couple of shots out on the course, by the time play finished, the picture had changed dramatically.
Now Els is right back in contention and, in the fifth last match of the day to go out in the final round, will be the location of many people’s money now.
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