The towering figure of Robert Karlsson stood tall against the elements to take a four stroke lead into the final round of the BMW PGA Championship after benefitting from an eight shot swing during a day of high drama when the famous West Course bared its teeth.
Karlsson, the form horse after third place finishes in his last two events on The European Tour International Schedule, birdied the last two holes to pull clear of Spain’s Miguel Angel Jiménez and England’s Oliver Wilson.
Overnight leader Paul McGinley, who led by four at the outset, shot a 79 to finish the day in a share of fourth place with India’s Jyoti Randhawa and Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik on six under par.
Winds gusting at 35mph swept across the course, making the closing stretch particularly difficult. Karlsson, however, would not be bowed and, after dropping shots on the 15th and 16th, finished with two birdies for a round of 70 and an 11 under par total of 205.
The 6ft 5in Swede, the tallest player on The European Tour, set out trailing McGinley by four but the Irishman’s lead evaporated in the space of four holes. While the Irishman battled hard to stay in touch, Karlsson stamped his authority on the Championship with a stunning eagle three on the 13th to put the title within his grasp.
“A four shot lead is big, but it can go very quickly,” said Karlsson. “It’s important for me not to get caught up in what other players are doing and we have another 18 holes to play. This is the third week in a row I have been up there in a tournament and that takes a little more out of you compared to lying 50th, but I’m feeling good and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Karlsson, Sweden’s most prolific champion, has already won one BMW sponsored tournament having captured the 1997 BMW International Open in Munich and has a proven record as a front runner having won six of his seven titles when leading after three rounds. He now has a great opportunity to make history as the first Swedish winner of The European Tour’s flagship event.
Jiménez is another player with a fondness for BMW events and is looking to complete the set having already won the BMW Asian Open in Shanghai and the BMW International Open. He has also finished in the top five in each of the last two years at Wentworth Club.
Like Karlsson, Jiménez birdied the last two holes for a round of 72 and 54 hole total of 209, and is well placed to challenge for the title.
“I like the golf course and will try my best tomorrow and see what happens. The last two birdies were very important. To finish with level par today is very good in these conditions. You don’t think you are going to shoot level par and jump up to second but these things happen and it just shows how tough the course was playing.”
Wilson is also hungry for the title after three runners-up finishes this season and it seems only a matter of time before he makes his winning breakthrough. A one over par 73 kept him very much in the hunt alongside Jiménez at seven under par.
“It was draining out there today,” admitted Wilson. “I need to get some rest and get ready for another fight tomorrow. I was pleased with the way I played today as I went out in contention and I’m still there after a tough day.”
Randhawa produced one of only three sub-70 scores, picking up four birdies in his back nine for a round of 69 t5to lie in a share of fourth place on six under par alongside Vancsik (72) and overnight leader McGinley. For two rounds McGinley couldn’t put a foot wrong as he raced to a record low 36 hole total of 13 under par but from the moment he double bogeyed the first hole, he was facing a battle and eventually came in with a 79.
Another Argentine, Rafa Echenique, recorded the best round of the day, a four under par 68 to make the biggest move up the leaderboard from 37th to a tie for seventh alongside Scotland’s Gary Orr.
|T1||JIMÉNEZ, Miguel Angel||ESP||18||-11|