BMW PGA: Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger close in on Ryder Cup spots

They’ll need to hand out headache pills to everyone at the end of this. The battle for Ryder Cup spots in the final qualifying event has already taken more twists and turns than the roads to plush mansions on the Wentworth Estate and we’ve still got one round to go in the BMW PGA Championship.

Shane Lowry celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th hole in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.
Shane Lowry celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th hole in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

In the penultimate circuit at the Surrey venue, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Irishman Shane Lowry both remained on course to secure an automatic spot, joining Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey after their berths had been confirmed on Friday night.

It had seemed that Wiesberger only needed a top-50 finish in the $8 million Rolex Series event to definitely be on Padraig Harrington’s team at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in a fortnight’s time, but something a lot better may now be required from the 2019 Scottish Open champion when the dice are rolled for the last time.

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If Lowry, who is trying to hang on to the automatic spot he had at the start of the event, wins at Wentworth, that would leave Wiesberger requiring a top-six finish to claim a place at the expense of Lee Westwood.

Bernd Wiesberger, right, shakes hands with Martin Kaymer after playing together in the third round at Wentworth. Picture: Andrew Redington/Getty Images.

Heading into the final circuit, Lowry and Wiesberger are sitting in a tie for sixth, three shots behind leader Franceso Laporta of Italy, but, as things stand, that wouldn’t be enough to get Lowry into the side under his own steam.

On a day of golfing Hokey Cokey, the 2019 Open champion had his foot in after holing an eight-foot birdie putt at the last only for it to go out when Jamie Donaldson, the match-winner in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, eagled the last, putting Westwood in but only by 2.34 points.

“I’m close, I’m very close,” said Lowry, who will definitely secure a spot if he wins here and, having finished second in 2014 and been in the top 15 for the last four years, that is a distinct possibility.

“It's been a stressful week but I'm proud of myself and the way I've handled it and played some good golf and put myself in position,” he added, having only dropped four shots in 54 holes, with three of those bogeys coming at the 15th.

”I've been in big, high-pressure situations before and I'm not going to back down or shy away. I'm going to go out tomorrow and work as hard as I can to achieve my career-long goal.”

Harrington, who missed the cut, is lying low until everything is decided on the automatic front before the three-time major winner announces his three captain’s picks around 7.30pm on Sunday.“He's been pretty quiet,” said Lowry of his compatriot. “It’s the first tournament we've played together in years that we haven't had dinner this week.

“I imagine the refresh button on his phone is nearly broken at the minute looking at the team and the permutations and what's happened. Yeah, I haven't really spoken to him much this week.”

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Having been three-over after just six holes in Thursday’s opening circuit, Wiesberger has certainly shown he can dig deep when the chips are down and the 35-year-old is ready for one final push, even if means he could leave Harrington facing a huge headache if, for example, he’s got Westwood, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose in the frame for his three spots.

“Yeah, been going back and forth a little with Pádraig the last couple weeks,” said Wiesberger of what the message had been from the captain. “I'm not going to share what was said but obviously he's aware that there's a lot of guys that are really eager to get on this team, me being one of them.

“I know that he recognises my game is good enough for being part of this Ryder Cup, but I want to be able to show it on my scorecard again tomorrow.”

Westwood, who had said on Friday that he was concerned about this week’s event potentially having a “draining” effect on some of the European players, is keeping things in perespective despite his automatic spot being under threat.

“I’m not stressed about it,” he insisted. “Trust me, golf does not stress me in the slightest any more. I don’t care enough about golf for it to stress me. I care about the Ryder Cup, it would be nice to be in it. But I don’t lose sleep about golf any more.”

Matthew Fitzpatrick still has work to do to hang on to his spot, but Tyrrell Hatton is now safe despite missing the cut as defending champion. Poulter also made an untimely early exit on Friday while Garcia is not playing this week, meaning they both face an anxious wait to see how everything unfolds on the final day.

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As for the coveted title up for grabs, Laporta carded an eagle and three birdies as he stepped up his bid for a spectacular maiden European Tour win, leading by one from England’s Laurie Canter.

Helped by a birdie-birdie-eagle finish, Donaldson is a shot further back along with former Masters champion Adam Scott, American Billy Horschel and South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout.

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