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Saturday, 14 May 2011
Chris Wood  (Getty Images)
Chris Wood (Getty Images)

Chris Wood remains on course for a first European Tour title at the Iberdrola Open after extending his lead to four shots with a third round 69.

But two very familiar faces are sure to be chasing hard in the final round at Pula GC - with Darren Clarke and José Maria Olazábal forming the penultimate group on Sunday.

Wood's one under par effort took him to nine under for the week, four ahead of Clarke and Irishman Shane Lowry, who matched Grégory Bourdy's course record 63 from the opening round.

Olazábal is one further back at the course he designed on Mallorca after a 66 - and all this after the Spaniard missed any tournament preparation to attend the funeral of close friend Seve Ballesteros on Wednesday.

Wood wasted little time stretching his overnight lead - the 23 year old holing a ten foot birdie putt on the first before eight consecutive pars saw him turn in 34.

A magnificent two iron second shot at the par five tenth led to another gain, before good par saves at the next two holes.

Wood - who has two top-five Open Championship finishes under his belt and lost a play-off for the Africa Open at the start of the season - finally dropped a shot at the 14th, although he might have got it back at the last when his six foot birdie putt rolled agonizingly past the left edge.

"I have extended my lead by one which is good but it was pretty tough today and I thought that I played pretty well and didn't really get the rewards I deserved," said Wood. "A lot of my birdie chances stayed out but overall it was a good day.

"I felt I was pretty flawless on the front nine today so I just need to do what I have been doing and hole a couple of more putts and I should be alright. It's pretty solid at the moment.

"I was eager to get going and I will be the same again tomorrow. I am ready to go again now if I had to. Tomorrow could be a big day for me but I need to try and treat it like any other round of golf."

Former Ryder Cup star Clarke had two bogeys in his first three holes but struck his approach to the fifth within three feet and made it consecutive birdies at the next.

He holed a 20 footer at the 13th, but three putts on the last saw him sign for a level par 70.

"I played nicely all day again," he said. "I played great and kept giving myself chance after chance and found myself with a very cold putter.

"I was disappointed at the last because I thought I had hit a great shot all over the flag and it turned out to be the worst place I could have missed it. Misread the first putt and misread the second putt but that's the game. The forecast for tomorrow is for strong winds so hopefully I can play the way I have been and the putter warms up a bit."

When asked about his former teammate Olazábal's charge onto the leaderboard Clarke joked: "He should be - it's his course!

"It is always nice to see Chema up there and play well. He has been through an awful lot last week and this week so it's nice to see him contending."

Olazábal had a bogey at the second but put that behind him with five birdies - an approach to five feet at the seventh and a 20 foot putt at the 12th among the highlights.

"It's been an extraordinary day on the greens," said The Ryder Cup Captain. "I holed many putts and that reflects on the scores.

"I am really happy, four under par is a great score, but I know that I need to keep working.

"I don't remember putting so well in such a long time - I made 23 putts, there aren't many putt days like today.

"If you play well, everything will come back. My goal is hit the ball well and if I can do that, results will come. Tomorrow I will go out there and fight like every day."

The 24 year old Lowry - who burst onto the scene when he captured the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 - carded six birdies, one bogey and an eagle at the par five sixth.

"It was one of those day when it all happened quickly and I was off and running," he said. "I was speaking to my coach last night and was saying that we have one of those courses here where you have to stay patient and plot your way round and hopefully the birdies will come.

"That's exactly what's happened over the first two rounds and then today I got off to a great start and was four under through six holes."

Bourdy recovered from the disappointment of his second round 77 with a 67 that leaves him sharing fifth place with England's David Lynn and Scotland's Scott Jamieson.

 

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1CLARKE, DarrenNIR18-6
T2LYNN, DavidENG18-3
T2WOOD, ChrisENG18-3
4FORSYTH, AlastairSCO18-2
T5LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-1
T5STORM, GraemeENG18-1
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