Friday, 19 March 2010
Portugal Masters - Round 2  (Getty Images)
Portugal Masters - Round 2 (Getty Images)

European Tour Order of Merit leader Robert Karlsson, Ross Fisher and Alvaro Quiros are locked in a three-way tie for the lead in the storm-hit third round of the Portugal Masters.

The match-up between Fisher and Karlsson, both 14 under par after 16 holes, promises a re-run of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship play-off at St Andrews two weeks ago, where the Swede beat The European Open champion.

Álvaro Quirós is also level with Fisher and Karlsson on 14 under par with 13 holes completed.

But they were prevented from finishing their rounds on the Oceânico Victoria Golf Course by a thunderstorm that forced play to be suspended at around 16.50 local time. The third round will resume at 7.50am with the final round due to start at about 9.10am.

Fisher hit five birdies in a row from the second hole, then another at the short eighth to turn in a superb 30. He then added his seventh birdie of the day on the long 12th, to stand at 14 under par overall.

Karlsson, playing with Fisher, was in second place after turning in 33 and matching partner's four at the 12th. And when the Swede, chasing his third successive victory, grabbed another birdie two holes later he was only one behind.

Karlsson admitted that the players were expecting the storm to affect play at some stage in the afternoon.

“We’ve almost been waiting for it all afternoon,” said the Ryder Cup player. “It looked like it was going to miss, and then maybe more like it was coming.

“I’m playing well but I must keep it going. There’s still another 20 holes to go.”

Karlsson had to be on his game throughout, as low scores ahead of himself and Fisher required immediate responses.

“It looks like there has been low scoring in the groups ahead of us, as well,” he added.

The odds on Karlsson winning the Order of Merit title were coming down all the time as Lee Westwood, third on the table and his closest rival playing this week, three-putted four times in a level par 72 that kept him on five under.

Søren Hansen of Denmark is the clubhouse leader on 13 under par, one shot back, after a round of 65, but the lowest round came from James Kingston, winner of the South African Airways Open.

Kingston’s 64 left him two shots back on the leaders on 12 under par, courtesy of a round containing five consecutive birdies on the front nine and four more on the back.

The South African reflected afterwards that his putter was to thank for his surge up the leaderboard.

“I made one or two where you almost feel embarrassed making putts like that,” Kingston said. “But other than that I played well. I drove the ball much better than yesterday so got the ball in play a lot better and gave myself that many more chances.

“I had such a good feeling for the line and just made all the putts I should have done.”

Kingston believes his victory in The European Tour this year, at the South African Airways Open, leaves him better suited to make the decisions that prove decisive in tournaments.

“Starting at four under par you don’t really think you are part of this tournament. But shoot 64 and in any event you are going to be back into contention again.

“That is what I have done, given myself a chance tomorrow. It’s nice to look forward to tomorrow. I don’t have to go out to get that first win under your belt as I know I have got it.

“I just have to give myself another opportunity and that’s it what is nice, that word another rather than being the first one, it makes things that much easier.”

Manley, of Wales, 174th on the money list and 575th in the world, had resumed his search for not only his first European Tour victory but also his first top ten finish with a one-stroke lead from the second day.

But two birdies in his first four holes were then followed by a triple bogey seven at the 510-yard par four seventh, where he could not recover from hooking his drive into the lake.

Manley, who turned professional in 2003 after being a hero of Great Britain and Ireland's Walker Cup victory over the Americans, did hit straight back with another birdie.

He was joint sixth with Paul Lawrie on 11 under par when the storm arrived.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1QUIROS, AlvaroESP18-19
2LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-16
T3FISHER, RossENG18-15
T3WEBSTER, SteveENG18-15
T3KARLSSON, RobertSWE18-15
6KINGSTON, JamesRSA18-14
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