Padraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy have not thrown in the towel in their quest to win the 21st anniversary of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Harrington ended his round holing a birdie on the final green for a round of 69 on the famed Old Course while McIlroy also birdied the last in a rousing six-under-par 66 leaving the Irish pair sharing 10th place at seven-under.
England’s Richard Mansell, who led on day two, extended his lead to four shots at 15-under par in posting a third round 67 at Carnoustie and heads to his hopeful maiden Tour success four clear of Swede Alex Noren who moved to 11-under thanks to a 69 at the Old Course.
Some 165 players were back in action on day three of the $5m event having endured one of the more brutal days, weather-wise a day earlier with near 50 mph and near gale-force winds playing havoc on the three host courses.
Harrington had been at Kingsbarns Links producing a superb one-under 71 and at day’s end was among just nine players to break par. In contrast, McIlroy struggled posting a 75 on the same course.
Day three dawned with conditions far more favourable, bright and sunny and with winds around 20mph to keep everyone honest.
Harrington kick-started his round, holing a 14-footer for birdie at the par-4 third hole and then chipping to within tap-in distance at the par-5 fifth hole for a second birdie.
He dropped a shot at the par-3 11th but picked-up shots at the par- 4 15th and then acknowledged the crowd, as he forever does, in holing his five-footer from behind the flag.
After his round, the reigning US Senior Open champion and also the winner of two other Champions Tour events, was asked not about his round but in a smarter question than the normal: ‘How was your round?’ run-of-the-mill questions but, and after the tough conditions on day two, what makes the now 51-year-old so mentally strong.
“I’m not 100 percent sure. It’s something that I’ve always had,” said Harrington.
“There’s no doubt you’ve got to be resilient. But I think when it comes to bad weather, you just have to manage your game and your expectations. It does help, and this helps to get ahead of the game.
“I started okay. I made a birdie early enough. It helps to have a good start and have some momentum in your group. But overall, it’s managing expectations and managing your game. Sometimes a good shot, a smart shot is, dare I say, take extra club. And if you hit it well, you’re going to be past the flag, but the likelihood of that happening in bad weather — you have to play sensible golf.
“No doubt you have to chip-and-putt well which is something I’m good at. A lot of resilience but a lot of good mental fortitude of managing your way around the golf course.”
McIlroy capped his round with seven birdies from the fourth to the last, and none better than driving the green at the final hole, and just burning the edge with his eagle putt.
“It was a good round and after all the rain we had yesterday, it softened-up the course,” said McIlroy. “It was still quite windy today and the ball was stopping pretty much where it landed. It did make it quite scorable while the rough isn’t up and the course is set-up pretty generously for the amateurs.”
“So, there were plenty of opportunities and though it wasn’t the way I wanted to start, spinning my ball back into the burn on one, I played some nice golf, and after my start I was just trying to keep up with my dad on the front nine while I took care of the back.”
Indeed, McIlrory’s father pared the 18th to ensure he and his World No. 2 ranked son will play all four rounds.
After finishing runner-up on three prior occasions McIlroy now has another chance to break his victory duck at the Home of Golf. Though it’s a big ask making up eight shots especially with the temperature forecast predicting a cloudless sky and light breeze of no more than 15mph.
“With the way this golf is playing right now I find it hard to see how someone doesn’t go out tomorrow and shoot a couple under,” said McIlroy. “It’s playing pretty easy and as easy as it can be right now, and even today in a 20 to 25mph wind.
“I am not sure what the forecast is for tomorrow but I can go out and shoot a low one but .. yeah, if I can get to the number Richard (Mansell) is on right now and that’s 15 then if I can go out tomorrow .. you will have to make him shoot under par .. then that would be a decent target.”
Missing a few putts and missing the halfway cut was recent BMW PGA champ Shane Lowry, and never recovering from a pair of ‘7s’ during Friday’s torture test at Kingsbarns.
Lowry did manage four birdies, including a monster 66-footer from the front of the green at the notorious 17th Road Hole but his 69 for a two-over tally was two shy of playing all four rounds
Lowry will return to the States for a fortnight’s break ahead of the October 20th CJ Cup in South Carolina he’ll be back on the DP World Tour a month later for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
In contrast, Jonathan Caldwell is headed to the Spanish capital for this coming week’s Spanish Open and now desperate for some decent showings. Caldwell posted scores of 68, 81 and 74 for a seven-over tally.
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