Wind blows Watson off course
Japan’s Noboru Sugai extended his overnight lead to six shots in the £500,000 Senior British Open despite stuttering at the end of each nine at a windswept Royal County Down today.
Tom Watson got his wish of stronger winds to blow over the Newcastle links in the hope of catching Sugai from five shots back at the start of the day. Instead of the American making a charge, he capitulated with a 76 to trail Sugai by eight shots as the Japanese senior leads on six-under 207 following his 73 to be the only player in the 62-man field still under par.
"I didn’t put up much of a challenge to the golf course today," said Watson who took positives out of good putts he made at the 13th,16th and 18th. "The course got the better of me today. It got the better of most guys except Mr Sugai."
As the majority of Seniors were licking self inflicted wounds, Sugai appeared oblivious of the testing conditions, notching up two birdies in his first four holes to open up a six shot lead at that point. However, the leader from the start of the Championship was brought back down to earth with two double-bogeys in quick succession at the eighth and ninth.
"Those mistakes were down to pressure nothing else, I made bad swings," explained the Tokyo resident who also bogeyed the 17th and 18th.
"I am surprised to be leading, tomorrow I will still be looking over my shoulder," he said. "I hope the wind keeps blowing because it suits me playing the ball low," added the 52-year-old who admitted the final round will be nervous for him.
Christy O’Connor Jnr is still the leading Irishman but any hopes of a third title appeared dashed with a clumsy double-bogey at the ninth before he too signed for a 73 to finish on three-over.
"I was going really well because I knew if I hung in there I would stay in contention but I had a disastrous six at the ninth," explained the Galwayman who missed the green with a short pitch from beyond the hole before three putting.
"I have a lot of ground to make up, I don’t think anybody expected Sugai to hang on as well as he has," said O’Connor. "That was as tough as I have ever played in but it isn’t over yet, I will give it a rip tomorrow."
Scotland’s John McTear was the only player in the field able to match par. The Glasgow professional made strides up the field simply by staying on seven-over.
Arthur Pierse closed with two bogeys for a 78 today leaving the Tipperary amateur on 14-over 227 for the Championship. The former Irish International and Walker Cup player had already secured the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur for the week, because he was the only amateur to make the cut.
Of the three other Irishmen, Denis O’Sullivan finished on 11-over after today’s 75 while Joe McDermott’s 82 and Gordon Parkhill’s 83 left both on 20 and 21-over respectively.
All that remains to be seen is, if Mr Sugai can hold onto his huge six shot advantage, the biggest 54-hole lead since the Senior Tour’s inception.
Third round scores from the Senior British Open at Royal County Down Golf Club (par 71; Gbr and Ire unless stated, Irish in bold)
207 N Sugai (Jpn) 73 213 J Irwin (Can) 74 214 J Bland (Rsa) 73 215 T Watson (USA) 76, J Chillas 77 216 C O’Connor Jnr 73 217 K Takahashi (Jpn) 77 218 D Oakley (USA) 74, N Job 75 219 J Morgan 77, R Weir 79 220 J McTear 71, D Huish 74, M Miller 74, P Diniz (Bra) 74, R Metherell (Aus) 76, S Ebihara (Jpn) 77, M Gregson 77 221 M Bembridge 76, B Vivian (Nzl) 78 222 D Halldorsan (Can) 76, B Jones (Aus) 77, B Charles (Nzl) 77, N Coles 78 223 B Brask (USA) 75, J Bruner (USA) 78, K MacDonald 79 224 D O’Sullivan 75, A Croce (Ita) 78 225 B Shearer (Aus) 76, B Feil (USA) 79, J Fourie (Rsa) 79, I Stanley (Aus) 79, B Verway (Rsa) 82 226 M Foster 78, R Carrasco (USA) 79, D Durnian 81, M Ferguson (Aus 227 D Creamer, G Parslow (Aus) 77, W Milne 77, A Pierse (a) 78, T Horton 79, W McDonald (Can) 79, P Ward 80 228 M Steadman 78,, M Edmunds 78, I Mosey 79, B Smith (Aus) 81, J Grace (USA) 84 229 I Richardson 80, N Ratcliffe (Aus) 81 230 G MacDonald (Can) 79, P Kerr 84, J Traub (USA) 84 231 S Locatelli (Ita) 82, T Allen 88 232 V Garcia (Spa) 83, J Mashego (Rsa) 82 233 J McDermott 82 234 S Stull (USA) 83, G Parkhill 83