Saturday 17 March 2018

Rory sets sights on Kaymer and world No 3 spot

Bernie McGuire , at Crans-sur-Sierre

Rory McIlroy is relishing the likelihood of an Omega European Masters final-round showdown with fellow Major champion Martin Kaymer and the extra prize of a likely world No 3 ranking.

McIlroy missed a short birdie putt on the final green yesterday that would have handed him a one-stroke lead at the halfway mark on the Crans-sur-Sierre course. His eventual two-under-par 69 left McIlroy tied atop the board on eight-under-par with the England pair of Gary Boyd (69) and recent Irish Open winner Simon Dyson (68) along with Welshman Jamie Donaldson (66).

Kaymer (70) is among four players tied in fifth place at seven-under-par that also includes England's Nick Dougherty.

Dougherty finally ended a miserable run of 20 missed cuts despite dropping a shot in a round of 72.

McIlroy struggled on the greens like most players in the afternoon half of the draw. "There's lot of traffic on the greens around this time of the day and they're also starting to seed, but then they really get you thinking a lot more," said McIlroy.

"They're very much like the greens at Pebble Beach early in the year and then in May at Wentworth, and you just have to deal with them.

"But then, we can't complain as we get spoilt for about 75pc of the year, as we play on perfect greens."

The highlight of McIlroy's round came early on when he drove the 314-metre par-four fifth hole, with his ball landing three feet from the flag for an eagle two.

However, McIlroy handed those shots back at the par-five ninth where he found a greenside bunker with his third shot from where he splashed out to six feet but proceeded to three putt for a double bogey. The still cramped nature of the world rankings sees just 0.19 of a ranking point separating current world No 3, Steve Stricker from McIlroy at No 5 while Kaymer, who is at No 4 is just .03 ahead of the Irishman.

"For sure, it would add extra spice to the tournament to see Martin and I fighting for the title on Sunday," said McIlroy.

"It's a great leaderboard with me at eight, Martin at seven and Lee at six, and then you have Simon Dyson who won in Ireland. Hopefully, we can play some good golf over the weekend and give the crowd some excitement."

British Open champion Darren Clarke was asked to join European Tour CEO George O'Grady for a photo shoot after his round of 71 with O'Grady presenting Clarke with the 'Golfer of the Month' trophy for his Royal St George's triumph.

The pair stood on the edge of the practice putting green after Clarke had taken 34 putts, one more than a day earlier.

"George? I can tell you this trophy is not for putting," said Clarke.

Peter Lawrie made it seven cuts in succession with a 66 to move to a share of 10th place at six-under-par while Michael Hoey, with a pair of 70s, is at two-under-par. Heading back down the mountain was Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin (72 71) and Shane Lowry (70 74).

European Masters, Day 3

Live, Sky Sports 4, 12.0

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport