HOLLAND’S Joost Luiten will take a narrow lead into the final round of the Irish Open as he seeks a second European Tour win in three events.
Luiten followed his victory in the Lyoness Open in Austria with a share of tenth place in Munich last weekend and a third round of 66 at Carton House maintained his superb run of form.
Six birdies and no bogeys took the 27-year-old to 13 under par – one shot ahead of Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal, who also carded a flawless 66 – with England’s Robert Rock two shots back after a 71.
Former world No.3 Paul Casey, currently ranked 169th after struggling for form and fitness, is a shot further back after a 67 left him nine under alongside Scotland’s Scott Henry, who followed his course-record 64 on Friday with a 69.
Ireland’s hopes of a home winner faded as 2009 winner Shane Lowry fell eight shots off the pace with a 74 after major winners Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke had all missed the cut.
“I don’t really care who is behind me, as long as they stay behind me,” Luiten, pictured said. “You still have to go out and make some birdies, be patient and take it one shot at a time.
“It’s always good to have a win under your belt. You can go a little bit more for the win. You have nothing to lose so that’s how I am going to go out tomorrow.
“I’ve been working on my swing for a long time and am finally fully fit after a shoulder problem which meant I couldn’t practise as much on the range. It feels really good now.”
Larrazabal, who has not tasted victory since 2011, said: “I tried to push and make birdies and that’s what I did on the front nine. I love to play in Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. They are the best crowds in the world. When you’re playing well it’s a pleasure to be playing this game.”
Casey’s last win was also in 2011, after which he broke his collarbone while snowboarding and struggled to regain top form in 2012, finishing 74th on the Race to Dubai.
“I’m ecstatic moving up the leaderboard and it’s given myself a chance,” the 35-year-old said. “I know I can play well around here.
“I feel I have a chance to win this week and it might take something very low tomorrow, but if I keep playing the way I’m playing, there’s no reason why I can’t throw in a low number.”
A disconsolate Lowry did not share the same optimism after his 74 left him eight off the lead and one behind fellow Irishman Peter Lawrie, who moved through the field with a 67.
“I just wasn’t there today,” said Lowry, who was still an amateur when he beat Rock in a play-off at Baltray in 2009. “I’m very disappointed. I tried my best, but played my way out of this golf tournament. I don’t think I can shoot a low enough score tomorrow to win.”
Rock, who took the “winner’s” cheque of ¤500,000 four years ago as Lowry could not claim it, said of his round: “It’s okay but it’s probably leaving me more work to do tomorrow than I would have liked. I was keeping pace for most of the day, but a bogey, par finish is not really what you need.”
Overnight joint leader Peter Uihlein made the ideal start with a birdie at the first but never recovered from fluffing a chip and missing a two-foot putt to double-bogey the third on his way to a 74.
Spieth and Castro share the lead at weather-hit Congressional
TEENAGER Jordan Spieth and Roberto Castro took a one-shot lead into the final two rounds at the AT&T National at Congressional on the PGA Tour.
The second round of the weather-delayed tournament was not completed until early yesterday. Andres Romero of Argentina briefly tied for the lead until an errant tee shot into a bunker led to bogey on the par-5 16th. He still had a 5-under 66 and was one shot behind. Nicolas Colsaerts had a bogey-free 68 and was among those two shots behind.
The cut was at 3-over 145 and Joe Ogilvie thought he’d have the weekend off until he birdied three of his last five holes to make it into the last two rounds. Nick Watney shot 40 on the back and made the cut.
n In the second round of the Senior Players Championship, Colin Montgomerie, making his Champions Tour debut, moved into a tie for tenth with Corey Pavin and Mark Calcavecchia at 4 under after rolling in birdies on his first five holes.
But Fred Couples roared through his first 11 holes, ripping off seven birdies at water-logged Fox Chapel to take the lead.
Then the weather managed to do what the defenceless course could not, stopping the Hall of Famer with a sudden downpour that suspended play for the day with most of the field still on the course.
The stoppage came just after Couples hit his tee shot on the par-3 third. The sky cleared in about an hour, but with fairways and bunkers resembling ponds and the threat of more storms looming, officials decided to send players home rather than wait out a lengthy delay to squeeze in a few more holes.
Couples understood the decision, but was in the middle of something special when play stopped.
“Rounds like this don’t happen very often,” Couples said.
Instead Couples was left to mull the 60-foot birdie putt that awaits when he and the 65 other players whose rounds were interrupted return to the course.
“I was hitting the ball well,” Couples said. “But you can look at the bright side tomorrow and hope to get it going again.”
He was 11 under.