Saturday, 15 March 2008

Graeme McDowell and Jeev Milkha Singh produced an unforgettable Ballantine’s battle royale to take a share of the lead after round three of the inaugural Ballantine’s Championship.

After a quite stunning display of golf, the Northern Irishman and the Indian are inseparable at the top of the leaderboard on 18 under par 216 with 18 holes to play at the stunning Pinx Golf Club.

But for a disappointing double bogey six on the 18th hole, McDowell would have carried a two shot lead into the final round, but the 28 year old remains in stunning form and with Singh producing equally devastating golf, the pair are set to go toe-to-toe on the final day.

They lead Ireland’s Paul McGinley by four clear strokes going into the final round, with Johan Edfors a shot further back on 13 under and Open Champion Padraig Harrington and the Australian Kane Webber on 12 under.

With no wind to protect the Pinx Golf Club, the third round displays of McDowell and Singh, who posted rounds of 66 and 64 respectively, along with Webber (65) and McGinley (67) were exemplary.

McDowell flew out of the blocks with a stunning birdie-birdie-par-eagle start to his third round and looked like he was going to leave the rest of the field in his wake to fight it out for second place, but Singh was not to be denied, racking up five consecutive birdies from the sixth hole to haul himself back into contention and set up a potentially unforgettable final round.

“When I was six under par through the front nine, I thought I might have a good chance to put the tournament sort of in my hands,” said McDowell. “And then Jeev ran off five straight through the turn and I realised I was going to have a fight on my hands, and threw in a couple birdies of my own on the back nine.

“Obviously I had a very disappointing finish.  I tried to cut a little five iron in there and double crossed it, and made six.  But I mean, the way I look at it I knew Jeev and I were going to have a little bit of tussle tomorrow at some point, so whether I'm one or two shots ahead or all square with him, I know I'm going to have to play well tomorrow to win.”

“I played well and Graeme played really well, too, today except he had a little bad luck on the last,” said Singh. “But I think we brought the best out of each other on the golf course. 

“He made a lot of birdies on the start and I came back and also made a few birdies.  I think it was a good game out there today and I think both of us took advantage of the weather.  The weather was perfect.

“On this golf course, it all comes down to putting.  I think whoever holds and get the putting going early, and also when he needs it on the golf course the last few holes, I think that's what it's going to come down to.”

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