What was shaping up to be a Turkey trot has turned into a Turkey shoot. Nicolas Colsaerts’ back-nine blow up has opened the door for a posse of players in the Turkish Airlines Open heading into the final round.
They include an on-from Justin Rose, Irish duo Shane Lowry and Padraig Harrington, defending champion Thorbjorn Olesen and also Stephen Gallacher. The Scot sits four off the pace, but pointed to Rose winning the WGC-HSBC Champions in the Far East last week as a reason why he believes a fourth European Tour triumph could be a possibility for him at the Regnum Carya course in Belek.
“Rosey came from eight behind to win in China last weekend,” noted the newly-turned 43-year-old after carding a 69 for a 10-under-par total. “There’s a 63 out there. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and hope it all comes together on the last day. I’m certainly happy to be in this position.”
Rightly so, too. While pleased to have secured his playing rights through the Race to Dubai rather than having to fall back on his place in the top 40 on the all-time European Tour money-list, as was the case 12 months ago, it’s been a frustrating season for Gallacher.
His game has lacked any real consistency and he’d reached the end of his tether with a damaging pull from the tee in particular. His decision to weaken his right-hand grip before coming out here has breathed new life into his game. Gallacher has had just one bogey in 54 holes. Consequently, there’s a definite spring back in his step.
“A couple went awry today at 10 and 11 but, apart from that, I gave myself plenty of chances again,” he reported. “It’s strange to be missing it right a few times. That’s novel for me, in fact. I over-cut my second shot at the 10th and it hit the cart path. I’ve never over-cut a shot in my life. I had to aim it at the water and cut it and I over-did it. I actually played my chip well because I had a tiny gap in the trees and I was pleased to make a bogey in the end.”
Sitting 78th in the Race to Dubai, Gallacher needs a strong finish here to progress to the second event in the Final Series, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa next week. More of the same will do the trick. “The putts I made today were for pars rather than birdies – that was the difference,” he added. “Slowly but surely, I’m learning how to figure things out with the new grip and how to play certain shots. Only one bogey in three rounds certainly isn’t bad.”
Colsaerts was four shots clear overnight and played the front nine in 32, but collapsed to a back nine of 41. While still in the hunt on 12-under, how he must have been kicking himself for taking on a flag at the 11th when there was no need to do so. A double-bogey 6 threw the $7 million tournament wide open – and possibly the battle to be Europe’s No 1 this season, too.
While Lowry (65) and 2015 Paul Lawrie Match Play champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat (66) share the lead on 14-under, Rose is ominously placed, sitting two shots behind alongside three-time major winner Harrington, after the pair made their moves with matching 64s. “Today was the best I’ve played all week, and maybe even better than last week,” said Rose of his brilliant comeback to claim a second WGC win. “Since the FedExCup started I’ve been playing really, really solid golf and obviously the confidence always increases after a win. You start to be a little bit freer, so this week could be a by-product of that. I knew I had a low round in me and to find it today was very handy. If I was to play well in Dubai (the DP World Tour Championship in a fortnight’s time) and win there, then whatever cheque I make tomorrow could be very valuable. Everything’s to play for and every shot counts at this stage of the season.”
Rose, the 2014 Scottish Open champion, began the week just over a million points behind Tommy Fleetwood on the money-list and has the disadvantage of not playing in next week’s event in Sun City. However, 985,000 points are on offer to the winner here and Fleetwood, the long-time Race to Dubai leader, would win around 58,000 if he remains in a tie for 27th, so things could still be close heading into the finale at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Richie Ramsay, sitting 24th in the rankings, carded a second consecutive 68 to lie joint-24th on six-under, but the three other Scots in the field, Marc Warren, David Drysdale and Scott Jamieson, are all outside the top 50. “I feel quite happy with my game,” said Ramsay after his effort. “The thing is, though, three under out there today was like level par and I have probably only moved-up a spot, so I just have to go out and play well tomorrow.”