Monday 23 October 2017

Another bogey-free round keeps Shane Lowry in touch at Wales Open

Holland's Joost Luiten on the 14th tee with Ireland's Shane Lowry (right) during day three of the 2014 ISPS Handa Welsh Open at Celtic Manor
Holland's Joost Luiten on the 14th tee with Ireland's Shane Lowry (right) during day three of the 2014 ISPS Handa Welsh Open at Celtic Manor

Phil Casey

Holland's Joost Luiten put himself in pole position to make up for the disappointment of missing out on the Ryder Cup in the ISPS Handa Wales Open on Saturday.

Luiten, who was considered for a wild card by European captain Paul McGinley, carded a third round of 65 at Celtic Manor to turn a one-shot deficit into a two-shot lead over Ireland's Shane Lowry.

Both players got off to a flying start on a day of low scoring, Luiten making birdies at the first, third and fifth and playing partner Lowry responding on the second, third and sixth.

But while Lowry could then only manage a string of 12 consecutive pars, Luiten birdied three of the last four holes to continue his superb recent form.

The 28-year-old was fourth in the Italian Open, the last qualifying event for the Ryder Cup, and after being overlooked for a wild card two days later, finished fifth in the defence of his KLM Open title on home soil last week.

"If you had these last couple of events counting for Ryder Cup qualification maybe I have a chance, but you know when the date ends and the qualification stops and you have to play well before that and I didn't do that," Luiten said. "You have to be realistic.

"I'm just happy that I'm playing good again and just want to keep going again.

"I'm happy with a good score today. I played solid, consistent, hit a lot of greens and holed some nice putts to start with. I didn't really make a lot in the middle part, but came back strong at the end with three birdies on the last four, and I'm happy.

"You're in the last group, the greens are not as good as in the morning maybe and you just have to be patient out on the greens. They are quite soft and you have to create chances every hole and they will go in eventually and luckily it did for me at the end."

Lowry, who won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and the Portugal Masters in 2012, said after his 68: "I got off to a flyer and just nothing really happened for me. I did make three good par saves, but I would have liked to make a couple more birdies and probably should have.

"I'm right where I want to be for tomorrow and I'm looking forward to it. I'm still there. If you had given me this Thursday morning before I stood on the first tee, I would have taken your hand off. I'm where I want to be and I feel like I have a chance tomorrow.

"Joost is playing lovely but I felt like I played lovely myself. Just warm up the putter tonight and see what happens tomorrow."

France's Gregory Havret carded a 66 to lie three shots off the lead on 11 under alongside former champion Thongchai Jaidee, who shot 67.

Havret, who finished runner-up to Graeme McDowell in the 2010 US Open but has not won on the European Tour since 2008, said: "I played good. Unfortunately the last three holes were not as good as the first 15, but it was definitely a good round.

"Anything red (under par) in this beautiful course is always good, and that's three in a row and hopefully another one tomorrow."

Of the three Ryder Cup players left in the field, Welshman Jamie Donaldson was best placed on eight under after a 68, with Lee Westwood three under after a 68 which featured a birdie-eagle finish.

In contrast, Thomas Bjorn fired a level-par 71 made up of 18 straight pars to remain two under.

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