Kevin Stadler extends lead to four shots in Paris
Tough conditions see just three players break 70 during third round
Kevin Stadler drives from the fourth tee during the third round of the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris. Photograph: Tony Marshall/Getty Images
American Kevin Stadler remains on course for a wire-to-wire victory in the Alstom Open de France after a testing third round which saw just three players break 70.
Stadler held a one-shot lead after a flawless opening 64 and extended his advantage to three shots thanks to a second round of 68, despite suffering a dreaded shank on his way to a double-bogey seven on his final hole.
And although the world number 62 could only manage a one-over-par 72 on Saturday, the wet and windy conditions meant he finished the day four ahead of France’s Victor Riu and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee.
Jaidee’s 69 would have been even better if not for a bogey on the 18th, while US Open champion Martin Kaymer is six off the lead after a 70.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell had made it to five under at the turn after two early bogeys were followed by four birdies in five holes to the turn. But his hopes of mounting a challenge fell apart with two further bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-five 14th as he carded a two-over 73 that left him on one under.
Michael Hoey is also on one under after a similar 73 and the Ulster pair were joined on that mark by Damien McGrane after he signed for a 72.
Kaymer believes that the only race left is for the runners-up spot behind Stadler.
“I think since the first day he’s running away a little bit, so I guess he likes the golf course as much as I do,” Kaymer said of Stadler, who won his first PGA Tour title in Phoenix in February. “So I think it will be difficult to catch him.
“If the weather stays like this, I just need to shoot a very, very low score tomorrow. If you get within two or three shots of him, he might get some nerves the last three or four holes because it’s a tough finish.
“But the way he plays golf and the way I know him, he’s a very laid-back guy so it will be difficult to catch him. I can only try to shoot as low as I can to be happy with myself.”
Stadler carded one bogey and eight pars on the front nine and that allowed Riu to claim a share of the lead when he recorded his second birdie of the day on the ninth.
At that point the 29-year-old from Paris was the only player in the field not to have dropped a shot, but a bogey promptly arrived on the 10th after he drove into the water and Stadler holed from 10 feet for birdie for a two-shot swing.
Riu bounced straight back with a birdie on the 11th but then carded five bogeys and a birdie in the next six holes, managing his only par of the back nine on the 18th.
Stadler was far more consistent with seven pars and a bogey on the 17th, despite struggling with a back injury which flared up during the round.
“It’s a little tight,” the 34-year-old said. “It’s been a little out of whack all week. Luckily didn’t give me a whole lot of trouble the first couple of days, but it today it turned up a bit. I’m still able to swing so should be fine.
“I got about what I deserved out of my game today. I didn’t play that great, made a whole lot of pars and did not have nearly as many looks (for birdie) as I had the last couple days, but you can’t expect to play that well for four days in a row.
“I knew I really didn’t have to do anything crazy today. A couple less would have been nice, but overall I’m happy the way it went.”