South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will take a commanding lead into the final day of the £5.3million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open after a brilliant third round at Ballyliffin.
Van Rooyen began the day in a three-way tie for the lead, but stormed to the turn in just 29 shots on his way to a superb 66 to finish 14 under par, four shots ahead of New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Sweden’s Joakim Lagergren.
Former Masters champion Danny Willett is five shots off the pace after recovering from a poor start with the aid of four birdies in a row on the back nine, with Scotland’s Russell Knox a shot further back on eight under.
Van Rooyen, who is seeking a first European Tour title, made the ideal start with birdies on the first and second before picking up further shots on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth.
“The mindset was just keep going, I guess,” said the 28-year-old, who would be just the second South African winner of the Irish Open after Bobby Locke in 1938 if he can win on Sunday.
“I wasn’t very much aware of my score or the situation. You sometimes get in a groove as a Golfer where things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts and that’s what happened.
“It wasn’t different on the back nine. I still played great. I wish I could have birdied the two par fives but looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day. There’s 18 holes left to navigate and that’s going to be my job tomorrow. Obviously I would love to get a win.”
Willett reached a career-high of ninth in the world after claiming his first major title at Augusta National in 2016, but has slumped to 442nd in the rankings after suffering numerous injuries and a loss of form.
A missed cut in last week’s French Open was his ninth in 12 events this season, but the 30-year-old from Sheffield bounced back from a front nine of 37 with four birdies in a row from the 11th and another on the 17th.
“There were a couple of poor swings early on but we dug in nicely,” Willett said. “We had a nice little run on the back nine where we holed a few good ones and turned it round pretty quickly.
“A couple of the long-range putts were obviously bonuses but it was nice to see them go in and keep the momentum going because when you saw the leaderboard after a few holes we were a helluva long way back.
Bubba Watson shot a final round of 63 to win the Travelers Championship by three strokes.
The American Ryder Cup hopeful and two-time Masters Champion carded eight birdies and only one bogey to finish clear of a group of four players, including overnight leader Paul Casey.
The Englishman went into Sunday with a four-shot lead and an opening birdie strengthened his position further, but that was as good as it got as three bogeys saw him finish in a share of second with Americans Stewart Cink, JB Holmes and Beau Hossler.
Watson told Sky Sports Golf: “It was a fun round of golf and I got lucky that he (Casey) didn’t have his best stuff today.”
Bubba Watson is now the first player on TOUR to win three times this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 24, 2018
He did not win a single PGA TOUR event last year. pic.twitter.com/dj2SJs8b7O
The left-hander’s third win of 2018 confirms his impressive form ahead of next month’s Open at Carnoustie and he also took the opportunity to send a message to his country’s Ryder Cup captain.
“I’m looking forward to (the Open) and I’m hoping Jim Furyk’s going to text and says, ‘You’re guaranteed for the Ryder Cup’ – still waiting on that text!” he said.
“It’s one of those years where you want it to keep going, you just don’t want it to end.”
England’s Paul Casey holds a four-stroke lead heading into the final round of the Travelers Championship after shooting a brilliant 62, his lowest career round on the PGA Tour.
The highlight of the 40-year-old’s round was an eagle after driving the 273-yard par-four 15th at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut, but a further six birdies took him to 16 under, well clear of second-placed American Russell Henley.
“That’s something I rarely see from me, 18 greens in regulation, so whatever he (swing coach Peter Kostis) told me worked,” said Casey in his post-round interview.
“I put a little bit more pressure on my short game to step up,” Day said. “It has been a pretty good week with the short game. I’m chipping really nice.”
He added: “If you get away 2-under on the front side tomorrow and can get something going from 11 on, 13, 15 and one out of the last three, that’s where you can start pushing. You can put a lot of pressure on the guys in front.”
Casey’s potential Ryder Cup team-mate, Rory McIlroy, appears too far back to challenge.
A second successive 69 for the Northern Irishman was well off the pace, with most of his rivals scoring in the mid to low 60s, and at eight under the four-time major champion has probably left himself too much to do.
He too eagled the 15th, chipping in from the front of the green, but a bogey at the last – his third of the day after two earlier birdies – was a disappointing way to end.