Golf: Course record falls to Chalmers' offensive

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COLIN MONTGOMERIE had stated on Friday evening that he was not going anywhere and, indeed, after driving from his Surrey home around the M25 and taking the road to Ware, Monty remains larger than life near the top of the leaderboard after three rounds of the National Car Rental English Open. As far as a journey into the history books is concerned, however, it was Greg Chalmers who came closest.

Chalmers, a 24-year-old left-hander who has won three times in his native Australia, looked likely to become the first man to break 60 on the European tour when he was 11 under for his first 14 holes. Instead, he parred each of the last four holes for a 61 to jump from one under to 12 under and pass 40 players in the process.

"I was really trying to get to the magic number of 14 under rather than thinking about shooting a 59," Chalmers said. Quite how he reflects on the round will not be known until today. "If I win then this will have been the greatest day of my career, but if not then it will just be a 61. Nothing compares to winning. I'd trade my 61 for a victory."

Lee Westwood managed both last week in Germany and what would Chalmers have given for the young Englishman's finish of three birdies in the last four holes. "I'd have paid a lot for his start," Westwood said. "I fancied Greg to break 60 because he had played the hard part of the course."

Westwood outscored his playing partner Montgomerie by two strokes with a 67 to take the lead at 13 under while Monty shared third place with the two overnight leaders, Patrik Sjoland and Stephen Leaney.

For all his eight victories around the world, Westwood has still not won in Britain or in successive weeks. "There are two things I still want to tick off and that's a win in Britain and a major," said the 25-year- old, who will fly on Concorde for the first time when he leaves for America, and his build up to the US Open, after the final round tomorrow night.

Chalmers lowered by three shots his own personal best, set last month at the Spanish Open where he was second, and broke the course record by two. By delicious irony, the previous holder, Jay Townsend, was the Aussie's playing partner and marked his card.

Oddly, Chalmers failed to birdie any of the par-threes. In all, he had 12 threes, seven coming at the first seven holes. He parred the eighth and then chipped in for his second eagle at the ninth.

"That's when the magical number popped into my head," Chalmers said. "It popped in a few times again on the back nine. I had a lot of chances but I got a bit loose coming in."

At the ninth, Chalmers had gone over the green by hitting his three-wood 20 yards further than he ever had before. At the 17th, another par-five, he again was too far with a two-iron. "My yardages were crazy," he said, "about a club different from normal because my heart was racing."

Another chip-in would have been nice but missing his four-foot birdie putt was a blow. "That was disappointing. I'd like to have had a chance at the last. It's everybody's dream to have a putt for a 59." He was left trying to hole his second shot at the last, a sand wedge from 104 yards, but did not make the same tier as the pin.

Conditions in the morning were perfect, but Chalmers also had to play superbly to take advantage. A four-iron from 204 yards at the third which finished two inches from the hole suggested things were going his way. "It was weird, really strange," he confessed.

"It was like having no control of what you are doing but having total control at the same time," Chalmers added, trying to describe what is a mystical feeling for most golfers.

"It felt like I could do no wrong. No matter what I did, the ball flew straight at the flag. It was a little frightening in a way but great at the same time. There was no panic, no anxiety - it became a gentle stroll. It's really hard to describe. It was like total relaxation but your heart's beating at 130 a minute."