Saturday, September 03, 2011


Welshman Jamie Donaldson, still to taste European Tour success after 237 events going back a decade, takes a one stroke lead into the final round of the Omega European Masters in Switzerland.
But if the 35 year old is to end his long wait for victory he is going to have to come through the stiffest test of his career.
One behind is World No 2 Lee Westwood after a best-of-the-day 64, and two back is US Open champion Rory McIlroy - no doubt fired up to make amends for bogeys at two of his last three holes.
Just when it was shaping up to be a shoot-out between the two Ryder Cup stars Donaldson grabbed four birdies in the closing six for a 65 and 14 under par total of 199.
"It will be awesome going up against two of the best players in the world at the moment," said Donaldson.
He turned professional after partnering Luke Donald and Paul Casey to second place in the 2000 World Amateur Team Championship.
But while they became instant hits in the paid ranks he suffered a serious back injury and had to go back to the Qualifying School five years ago.
Last season, though, he had no fewer than nine top-ten finishes and is poised now to break back into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Westwood and McIlroy were quickly off the scene after their rounds to see other sporting interests at work on TV.
At Haydock Park Westwood's `Hoof It` finished a very close third in the Betfred Sprint Cup, while McIlroy's girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, the World No 1 women in tennis, was first on court at the US Open.
The 22 year old, himself sixth in the rankings, was no doubt hoping she would close things out better than he did in his third round.
"It was not the greatest way to finish," he said after three-putting the 16th and then going over the green from a fairway bunker at the 17th - after taking an iron off the tee for safety.
One of four joint-overnight leaders, McIlroy had jumped into a two stroke advantage with a 30ft eagle putt from the fringe of the seventh green.
He then stayed out in front by matching Westwood's birdies at the 14th and 15th, but now is playing catch-up again.
"I'm still in there with a chance and I'll be looking for a fast start and putting a bit of pressure on the boys," added the Northern Irishman from Holywood near Belfast.
"I feel the way my game is there's a 61 or 62 out there."
Three years ago he was four clear with a round to go, but lost in a play-off after missing from five feet on the final green and from barely two feet at the second extra hole against France's Jean-Francois Lucquin.
Westwood finished off a front nine 31 with four successive birdies, but his only gains on the inward half came at the two par fives.
Back from a holiday in Barbados, he is fighting a head cold and said: "It's affecting my balance a bit.
"I played only six holes the last two weeks, which is not really the right preparation. But at some point in the year you have to take a break and recharge your batteries.
"It was nice not to have any fives on the card and no bogeys, especially on this course because it can trip you up."
Last week's winner Thomas Björn and England's Gary Boyd are only three behind - Björn triumphed at Gleneagles from the same position.
First-round leader Nick Dougherty, whose 63 set him up to make his first cut in 22 starts going back to last November, fell from one behind to 25th on six under with a second successive 72.

Par 213 (3x71)
199 Jamie Donaldson (Wales) 68 66 65.
200 Lee Westwood (England) 67 69 64.
201 Rory McIlroy (N Ireland) 65 69 67
202 Thomas Bjorn (Denmark) 68 68 66, Gary Boyd (England) 65 69 68

203 Stephen Gallacher 70 66 67 (T6)
208 Richie Ramsay 70 70 68, Paul Lawrie 69 69 70 (T34).
210 Gary Orr 69 70 71 (T44).
212 Steven O'Hara 73 67 72 (T56).
214 George Murray 70 69 75 (T66)





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