Paul Casey (Getty Images)
Paul Casey overcame difficult conditions at Carton House to put himself in prime position for a first European Tour title for two and a half years at The Irish Open.
The Englishman started the day four shots behind Joost Luiten, but was three clear with five to play after a remarkable run around the turn.
Dutchman Luiten started the day one ahead of Pablo Larrazábal but followed four consecutive pars with a bogey at the fifth after hitting his approach over the green to drop to 12 under.
His Spanish playing partner was also one
over through five, and with birdies not forthcoming in the final group several other
players came into contention – none more so than Casey/
England’s Robert Rock, who took the winner’s cheque
in this event four years ago after being beaten by then-amateur Shane Lowry in a play-off
, and former Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal looked well placed only for their challenges to fade as the weather worsened.
Casey started with seven consecutive pars but got his challenge up
and running with birdies on the eighth and ninth.
Once ranked third in the Official World Golf Ranking but currently 169th after form
and fitness problems, Casey also birdied the tenth from 12 feet and when he made it four in a row from eight feet on the next, he was into
the lead on 13 under.
The latter of those birdies came after a nasty squall had passed over the course, torrential rain sending players and spectators scurrying for cover.
Casey narrowly missed the green on the reachable par four 13th but chipped to three feet to set up his fifth birdie in six holes and improve to 14 under.
And with Luiten dropping a shot on the 12th after failing to get up and down from an awkward lie on the bank of a greenside
bunker, Casey was suddenly three shots clear of the field.
Casey gave the chasing pack some hope when he hit two superb shots just a few yards short of the 15th green, but then hit a clumsy pitch and three-putted from just off the green for a bogey six.
That reduced his lead to two shots, although nearest rival Luiten
was still looking for his first birdie of the day after 14 holes.