Leading a tournament on Saturday morning is never an easy position and so it proved for Ireland’s Niall Kearney as, on 11-under par, he took a two stroke lead into the third round of the BMW International Open.
Unfortunately Kearney was unable to make any real progress and with three birdies and three bogeys on his card, signed for an even par round to sit in T4 position, six shots off the pace now being set by Viktor Hovland.
“It felt like I played pretty well. Towards the end it became a bit of a scrap,” said Kearney who went bogey-birdie on the 11th/12th and again on the 17th/18th.
“On a couple of the par fives I felt like I hit decent tee shots but it was just about six or eight inches into the heavy stuff so couldn’t have a go at it. I felt as though I was hitting it into 20, 25 feet most of the day, which took birdies out of the equation. I was hitting it solid enough to hit two or three under par but ended up level par.
“It could be a huge day. Just got to stick to my own game plan. I thought some of the pins today I couldn’t really go at them. Viktor was obviously firing at everything, that was an unbelievable score he had but there is much more to it for me tomorrow, especially with limited opportunities. I need to play well, finish well and keep the wave going.”
As it stands it will be Hovland looking to break new ground as he looks to become the first Norwegian winner in European Tour history after a brilliant eight under par round of 64 gave him a three shot lead heading into the final round at the Golfclub München Eichenried.
The World Number 14 signed for a 68 on day one despite finding the water three times and since then he has not looked back, adding a 67 on Saturday to today’s bogey free effort to get to 17 under par.
“Growing up I mainly watched the European Tour every Saturday and Sunday morning. That was my routine. We’ve had some runner up finishes in the past, but it would be really cool for Norway to get our first (European Tour) win,” commented Hovland.
“It’s a great course, if you pull off the shots you can make some eagles and some really easy birdies, but there is water around and if you don’t pull the shot off you can easily make a bogey. I’ve pulled off the shots more than I haven’t bit even the few times I’ve hit it into the water I’ve managed to make some good pars and keep things going. I like to play aggressive and make as many birdies as I can.
“I just try to stay within myself. Obviously, I look at leaderboards to see where I’m at, but instead of trying to force things, I just tell myself at the start of the day just to take control of my own game. If I don’t waste shots here and there, just play smart, trust that I’m doing the right things, I think I should have a really good shot tomorrow.”
Hovland already has two wins on the PGA TOUR, is currently 12th on the Race to Dubai Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and has Spaniard Jorge Campillo is his closest challenger at 14 under par after a five under par round of 67. He in turn is one shot clear of South African Darren Fichardt and three ahead of Kearney and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger.
Sweden’s Vincent Norrman had a day to remember as he made his professional debut on the European Tour, holing a three wood from 270 yards on the par four 16th for a hole-in-one albatross.
It was the 23rd ace of the season and second on a par four after South Korean Kyongjun Moon at the Kenya Savannah Classic supported by Absa.