Saturday 17 March 2018

Luiten leads at Carton House as Irish challenge fades

Joost Luiten watches his shot from the 7th tee box today
Joost Luiten watches his shot from the 7th tee box today

Phil Casey

Holland's Joost Luiten will take a narrow lead into the final round of the Irish Open as he seeks a second European Tour win in three events.

Luiten followed his victory in the Lyoness Open in Austria with a share of 10th place in Munich last weekend and a third round of 66 at Carton House maintained his superb run of form.

Six birdies and no bogeys saw the 27-year-old finish 13 under par - one shot ahead of Spain's Pablo Larrazabal, who also carded a flawless 66 - with England's Robert Rock two shots back after a 71.

Former world number three Paul Casey, currently ranked 169th after struggling for form and fitness, is a shot further back after a 67 left him nine under alongside Scotland's Scott Henry, who followed his course-record 64 on Friday with a 69.

Ireland's hopes of a home winner faded as 2009 winner Shane Lowry fell eight shots off the pace with a 74 after major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke had all missed the halfway cut.

"I don't really care who is behind me, as long as they stay behind me," Luiten said. "You still have to go out and make some birdies, be patient and take it one shot at a time.

"It's always good to have a win under your belt. You can go a little bit more for the win. You have nothing to lose so that's how I am going to go out tomorrow.

"I've been working on my swing for a long time and am finally fully fit after a shoulder problem which meant I couldn't practise as much on the range. It has been good for a couple of months and feels really good now."

Larrazabal, who had four top-six finishes in five events earlier this season but has not tasted victory since 2011, said: "I tried to push and make birdies and that's what I did on the front nine.

"I love to play in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, they are the best crowds in the world. When you're playing well it's a pleasure to be playing this game."

Casey's last win was also in 2011, after which he broke his collarbone while snowboarding and struggled to regain top form in 2012, finishing 74th on the Race to Dubai.

"I'm ecstatic moving up the leaderboard and it's given myself a chance," the 35-year-old said.

"This is a golf course I like. I had near-success around here, I would say.

"In 2006 when we were last here, when Thomas Bjorn won, myself and Darren Clarke feel like we should have won that tournament, and Thomas knows that. We've given him some grief about it."

Bjorn shot 78 on the first day but stormed back into contention and eventually won with a birdie on the 72nd hole, where Clarke took six and Casey three-putted from the front edge for par.

"I know I can play well around here," Casey added.

"I feel I have a chance to win this week and it might take something very low tomorrow, but if I keep playing the way I'm playing, there's no reason why I can't throw in a low number."

A disconsolate Lowry did not share the same optimism after his 74 left him eight off the lead and one behind fellow Irishman Peter Lawrie, who moved through the field with a 67.

"I just wasn't there today," said Lowry, who was still an amateur when he beat Rock in a play-off at Baltray in 2009.

"I'm very disappointed to be honest. I went out and tried my best, but played my way out of this golf tournament. I don't think I can shoot a low enough score tomorrow to win."

Rock, who took the "winner's" cheque of 500,000 four years ago as Lowry could not claim it, said of his round: "It's okay but it's probably leaving me more work to do tomorrow than I would have liked. I was keeping pace for most of the day, but a bogey, par finish is not really what you need.

"I would have liked to have played my way into the final group, but they set a good pace. They deserve that position. I'll have to play a bit better tomorrow."

Overnight joint leader Peter Uihlein made the ideal start with a birdie at the first but never recovered from fluffing a chip and missing a two-foot putt to double-bogey the third on his way to a 74.

Online Editors

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