With a packed leaderboard and up to 26 holes still to play on Sunday, the Quinn Insurance British Masters is poised for a thrilling climax at The Belfry, a venue synonymous with great drama.
South African Charl Schwartzel holds the clubhouse lead at six under par 210 having been one of the few players to complete his third round but New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, Spain’s Alejandro Canizares and Swede Mikael Campbell are all at seven under out on the course.
After more fog delays earlier in the day, the third round could not be completed before play was suspended at 19.00. The third round will resume at 8.00am and the final round will not start before 11am. And after all the past glories at The Belfry in Ryder Cups and past editions of this tournament, spectators can look forward to another great battle with eight players within a shot of the lead.
Defending champion Lee Westwood is among those still in the hunt in the group on six under par after battling back from a torrid start where he bogeyed the first three holes.
Schwartzel, by contrast, made a blistering start to his round as he played the back nine of the Brabazon course in 29 strokes, the lowest ever score for the famous back nine. Although he double bogeyed the fourth, his round of 66, set the clubhouse target.
“It was unbelievable at the start,” he said. “I obviously hit the ball very well. Made a lot of putts and you know, seven birdies, quickly.
“I just hit proper golf shots. I was in the fairways, which on this course is a must. Birdieing 18 was quite a big birdie. That's probably a shot on the field at least.
“It's going to be close tomorrow. I think by the end of tomorrow, you know that if you can get, I don't know, probably a number of 10, 11 under, it's going to be very close. So we'll see. It's out there.”
Canizares birdied the first, his tenth, in the gathering gloom to move to seven under par and well placed to challenge for his second European Tour title.
“I was more confident with the driver today, hit more fairways and made some good putts,” he said. “Overall pretty happy with how I played. I am just going to try and have fun tomorrow, not put too much pressure on myself and have a good tournament. Play the way I want to play and the way I know I can play. If I play under par I think I will be right up there. Shoot under par every day, that is my target.”
Campbell, also made a late birdie from the fringe on the fifth to move to seven under par with four holes remaining in his third round, with Lundberg making it three at the top of the leaderbaord after reaching five under through 14 holes.
“That was a lot better today – I am starting to see the shots again, a bit like I was in Russia and the good feelings are certainly there. My wedge play has been really good, especially today. I was five under for 14 holes but it felt solid mostly because all of my birdie putts were from inside six feet because I was hitting the wedges close.”
Westwood, however, continues to look like the main threat as he seeks to retain his Quinn Insurance British Masters crown. Despite starting with three bogeys when he teed off at the tenth, the Ryder Cup player put himself back into contention with an eagle three on the 17th and a birdie on the first to lie in a five-way tie for fourth place.
“These things happen,” shrugged Westwood when asked about his start. “Starting at the tenth is not easy. I just tried to cut a five wood in there and it didn’t cut. That was an easy bogey and then I three putted the next and hit a poor shot on 12 so deserved three bogeys. I struggled to get it going after that but battled away and got my reward on the 17th for being patient.”
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