David Drysdale in the hunt for Open exemption

Thomas Pieters remains in contention for the Open de France title. Picture: Getty Images
Thomas Pieters remains in contention for the Open de France title. Picture: Getty Images
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David Drysdale stayed in the hunt for an Open Championship spot as Ryder Cup player Thomas Pieters recovered from breaking his driver to remain firmly in contention for the £5.4 million HNA Open de France.

With the event offering three spots in the season’s third major, Drysdale has given himself a chance to make the Royal Birkdale line-up the week after next, having only played once before in the Claret Jug joust.

The Cockburnspath man is sitting joint-tenth, four shots off the lead, at Le Golf National outside Paris and has only four other non-exempt players ahead of him on the leaderboard heading into the final circuit.

Drysdale, who tied for 60th in the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry, carded four birdies in the third round after being the sole Scot out of seven starters to survive the cut in the 
Rolex Series event.

It saw Pieters take his anger out on his driver, snapping the shaft, after following eight straight pars by pulling his drive on the ninth into the water for the second day running. However, the 25-year-old Belgian, who won a record four points on his Ryder Cup debut last year, immediately regained his composure to birdie the next two holes and picked up another shot on the 15th.

The resulting 69 left Pieters on seven-under, just one shot off the lead shared by Peter Uihlein and Alexander Bjork at the venue which will stage the biennial contest between Europe and the United States in 2018.

“I wasn’t trying to break my driver at all,” Pieters said. “Me and my caddie, we kind of laughed because I just put it in my bag and I think there’s maybe a soft spot in the shaft or something.

“I didn’t put it in with a lot of force and it broke. I mean, it’s my own fault and to have to play the back nine on this golf course without a driver, it’s not easy.

“I definitely took some penalty for that. I didn’t hit a lot of fairways and left myself long second shots, which wasn’t fun. I was swinging it very badly. Thank God I putted well.”

A level-par 71 was enough for halfway joint-leader Uihlein to remain at the head of the field and the American will look to take inspiration from the US Open victory of his former house-mate, Brooks Koepka.

Elsewhere, Glencruitten’s Robert MacIntyre boosted his Walker Cup hopes with a strong finish in the European Amateur at Walton Heath in Surrey. The left-hander signed off with a 66 for a 14-under-par 274 total, just missing out on a three-man play-off won by England’s Alfie Plant

Still in the amateur ranks, Peebles player Darren Howie led the qualifiers for the new-look Scottish Boys Championship after following up an opening 69 
at Scotscraig with a 70 at nearby Drumoig. Howie is bidding to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Craig, the 2013 winner at Murcar Links.

On the team front, Great Britain & Ireland’s miserable run, having not triumphed in the biennial event since 2005, continued as Elaine Farquharson-Black’s side lost 15-9 to the Continent of Europe in the Vagliano Trophy at Bogogno Golf Club in Milan.