Six-figure pay-days may be commonplace for the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth but not David Drysdale. Just once, in fact, in 14 seasons on the European Tour has the Borders man found himself laughing all the way to his bank. “I picked up €111,000 for finishing second behind Soren Kjeldsen in the Andalucian Open,” said Drysdale, recalling it as though it was a recent highlight when, in actual fact, it was back in 2009.
With another Dane, Thorbjorn Olesen seven shots clear of the field and nine ahead of the Scot, it’s unlikely that Drysdale will be picking up a winner’s prize of £950,170 after the final round of the Turkish Airlines Open in Belek. He’s in contention, though, for 10 other six-figure cheques up for grabs in the opening event in this season’s European Tour Final Series. After making seven birdies in an up-and-down 69 for a nine-under 204 total at the Regnum Carya resort, the 41-year-old is sitting joint-ninth.
Apart from the two double-bogeys - he was in second place on his own behind Olesen and flying at the time after making three birdies in row from the second when making the first one at the short sixth - on his third-round card, Drysdale has played a lot better so far than a man sitting 92nd in the Race to Dubai. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t have been good enough to get him here. Withdrawals due to safety concerns following a recent rocket and car explosion in the Antalaya area opened the door. One more sub-par round could now get him into next week’s Nedbank Challenge in Sun City as well.
“Just being here was a nice end-of-season bonus and now I’ve given myself a chance to get into South Africa as well,” said the Cockburnspath man, smiling. He’s nine spots outside the cut-off mark for that event at the moment. But, with even 11th place here picking up more than £100,000, the opportunity is there to extend his season. “I’ve just got to go out tomorrow and keep doing what I’ve been doing the last three days with a few less mistakes,” he added.
Drysdale had rolled in putts from 18 feet, six feet and 15 feet to emerge as the day’s first possible challenger to Olesen at the top of the leaderboard before coming up a fraction short with his tee shot to find water at the sixth. “I had 161 yards to the flag and I hit my 8-iron 160 yards. It was right on the flag but it, as I walking off the tee, I felt a slight draught that I didn’t think was there,” he said. Water did the damage again with his second double-bogey at the 10th, where he blamed that slippage on a “poor decision” from the trees on the right.
Three birdies in five holes, albeit with a bogey in there as well, helped put the smile back on the Scot’s face. He’d have been even happier if a three-footer for birdie at the 17th had been converted and a 25-foot effort up the slope at the last hadn’t just slipped past on the left. “Seven birdies is pretty decent and it should have been more,” he said. “My game is good and hopefully it can be again tomorrow.”
Olesen was impressive when he won the Dunhill Links Championship - his third European Tour title triumph - last year. The 26-year-old has been in a class of his own, really, for three days here. While his fireworks came in Friday’s 62, a 68 on Bonfire Night left him well clear of a chasing pack that includes David Lipsky, the only American in the field after Patrick Reed’s withdrawal due to safety fears. “I have never had a seven-shot lead so it feels a bit weird,” admitted Olesen. “But that is why it’s so important to keep being aggressive tomorrow.”
Alongside Lipsky on 11-under are Italian Matteo Manassero, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, China’s Haotong Li and Englishman David Horsey. They’ll need Olesen to suffer a real collapse and that looks unlikely. The Dane has held the 54-hole lead on four previous occasions and finished off the job all but once. His cushion is also the biggest by two shots on the European Tour this season.
On another perfect day on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, Richie Ramsay and Marc Warren joined Drysdale in signing for sub-par scores. Ramsay rolled in a nice birdie putt at the last for his 69 to sit joint-22nd on five-under. “I’ve been very steady all week and have executed shots really well,” said the Aberdonian. “I’d just like to have got up and down a couple of times and I also need to be a bit more aggressive with my putts.”
He came into this event sitting 68th in the Race to Dubai and is pretty certain that he’ll be moving on to South Africa. His goal there will be making it into the top 60 so that he gets to play in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. “I’d probably be pissed off if I didn’t make it there,” he admitted. “I’ve played there a few times now and I’m starting to enjoy the course more, even though it definitely favours the guys who shift it.”
Warren was happy with a flawless 67, which marked an eight-shot improvement on his second-day score. “It was much better today,” said the 33-year-old, who is sitting joint-40th on three-under alongside Paul Lawrie, the other Scot in the 78-man field. “The first day I didn’t drive it well then everything was poor yesterday. But did I did everything really solid.
“I took a club back to my room last night so that I could do a few practice swings in front of the mirror. Due to the fact I once injured myself doing that when I smashed a chandelier in the Seve Trophy in Ireland, I always check now to see the ceiling is high enough, but I find that seeing what I am doing when I’m swinging the club can be a big help.”
Lawrie, who is playing here on an invitation that was arranged through the sponsor by Chubby Chandler, who helped broker the deal for this event, felt his play had deserved better than a level-par 71. “I hit it quite good today from tee to green but my putting was awful,” said the Aberdonian. “Then, at the last I hit a low pull with a 3-wood into the water but holed a 30-footer to save par! One-under was a good score yesterday because I really struggled but level-par was poor today as I hit a lot of nice shots.”