BMW PGA Championship Day 3 Wrap-up
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
Andrew Dodt was pinching himself after a superb 68 left him leading the field by one shot going into the final day of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The unheralded Australian played tremendous golf on a tough day for scoring. Although the sun shone and the temperatures soared, a strong wind also saw many leading players struggle.
Lee Westwood carded a third round of 72 to lie three shots behind Dodt, but it was a round that Seve Ballesteros would have proud of. After 14 holes, Westwood had hit just one green in regulation and was three over par, but the former world number one then parred the difficult 15th and birdied the last three holes. The 44-year-old, who has twice finished runner-up in the European Tour’s £5.4million flagship event, needed just 23 putts and had a scrambling percentage of 95, prompting some high praise from caddie Billy Foster.
“He said he had not seen an exhibition of short game and putting like that since he worked for Seve 25 years ago,” Westwood said. “After 14 holes I hadn’t had a birdie putt and I was just grinding, trying to get up and down when I missed the green, which was pretty often. It felt odd and nice in a way. I had gone through the confused and slightly angry stage and was just laughing, wondering who this was chipping and putting.
“I’ve worked hard on my short game and maybe it has finally clicked. I feel like I have all the shots. I’m just enjoying playing golf at the moment and, as one of the oldest guys out here, being able to compete.”
A combination of swirling winds and firm greens made scoring difficult, with the last four groups a combined 17 over par and halfway leaders Thomas Pieters, Scott Jamieson and Francesco Molinari shooting 78, 76 and 74 respectively.
Dodt defied the conditions with a 68 that left him on eight under par, one ahead of Branden Grace, of South Africa. Westwood and Molinari were two strokes further back, with Open champion Henrik Stenson, Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Japan’s Hideto Tanihara on four under. Tanihara’s 67 was the lowest score of the day and lifted him 32 places up the leaderboard.
A victory for Grace on Sunday would be his eighth on the European Tour since 2012, but would also rekindle the debate over his controversial free drop in the first round, when his approach to the 13th plugged in the bank of a bunker, leaving him with an awkward lie on the upslope.
However, after taking his stance in the sand, the 29-year-old called in a rules official and said his feet were touching the rubber sheeting at the base of the bunker, thereby entitling him to a free drop.
The decision prompted Danny Willett, whose former caddie Jonathan Smart is now working for Grace, to use Twitter to ask the Tour for an explanation, while former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley labelled the ruling ‘‘ridiculous’‘.
“To be quite honest, I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Grace said after a 70 which featured four birdies in five holes from the 10th. “The rules official is there for a reason and it was a valid question and he gave me the drop. I actually heard that (Padraig) Harrington was in the same scenario yesterday and he got relief as well. I think it is something that brought the attention to a lot of guys out there that maybe didn’t know about that rule, but now they know.
“Some guys are going to love it and some guys are going to hate it. That’s always the game.
Meanwhile, Justin Rose was left to wonder what might have been. He seemed certain to miss the cut after shanking a fairway bunker shot out of bounds on the sixth hole of his second round to run up a quadruple-bogey, but finished with an eagle from 10 feet on the par-five 18th. It meant an early start in the third round for the Olympic champion, who fired four birdies and two bogeys in a third round of 70 to reach level par.
Rose felt a 67 would have kept him in contention for a first win of the season and that looked like an accurate prediction as the overnight leaders struggled to make any headway. “It’s a tough day out there so I’m pretty happy with the score,” Rose said.
“I’m a few shy of maybe what I needed but a good round of golf nonetheless. Starting with three pars was nice, but then I didn’t capitalise with a bogey on the (par-five) fourth.
“Almost your feel for a great round has somewhat left you by that point, so it was a matter of digging in and having another good day.
“It was nice to bounce back with birdies on five and six, which is always a positive sign. I’m struggling a little bit with my feels and my game so on a breezy, tricky day it was a good score. I’m getting a bit closer to some feels that resonate with me.”
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