Players on the American Tour have to play in at least 15 home events. Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, attempted once before to increase the figure from nine to 11 but did not get the support of the tournament committee. Truancy on a large scale here - no Faldo, Ballesteros, Woosnam, Langer, Olazabal or Lyle - has forced the hand of the decision-makers.
Apart from the fact that there are no 22-carat carrots on offer here, perhaps the absentees got wind that Hurricane Andrew, or its relative, would visit The Belfry. The third round of the championship yesterday was as hard as playing through treacle. The Brabazon course, amended and improved, is a hard slog in any case at 7,276 yards and when a Brummie breeze ripped the figures from the scoreboard, the going went from tough to where's the St Bernard.
Many of the scores were in the X-certificate class. They moved the tee forward on the famous 10th hole, a par four measuring less than 300 yards, the idea being to tempt the players into driving the green over the water. Under normal circumstances they would have gone for it but there was nothing normal about yesterday's conditions. Colin Montgomerie, for example, toyed with the idea of using his driver and thought better of it. He played short of the water, pitched to the green and the ball spun back into the lake. He took a double-bogey six and, for the second successive day, tossed his ball into the water.
Two Swedes, who were once rivals in college golf in America, hold the joint lead going into the final round today, Fredrik Lindgren and Per-Ulrik Johansson. Lindgren shot 74 in the third round, Johansson a level-par 72 and they are both at five under par for the championship, two strokes clear of Mark Roe and Silvio Grappasonni.
Johansson, rookie of the year last season, produced a brilliant finish with a birdie three at the 18th and somehow he came home in 34. At the last, he hit a two-iron approach from 217 yards to 12 feet and rolled in the putt. 'If I have a good day I can beat anyone,' Johansson said. Referring to the super six, he said: 'It is almost as good a competition without them. They're not always on the leader board. I used to think that I was so far away from them but that is not the case. It is very important to get over that stage.' One of Johansson's goals is to play in the Ryder Cup here next year.
Roe won the Catalan Open in 1989 and it remains the highlight of his career. He wore a sweater bearing the legend: 'Just Do It'. The winner today will receive pounds 91,660. 'I couldn't give a toss about the money,' Roe said. 'I would just love to win the English Open. I think I have the game to win tournaments but I've only won one. There are a hundred players out there who can win but only if they believe it.'
Roe, a Yorkshireman, shot 75 on a day when he considered par to be not 72, but 76. 'I feel as if I've been through a war,' he said. 'It was a survival test and you limit the damage as best you can. Level par in the fourth round could win the tournament.' Roe lost ground when he had a bogey six on the 15th and a bogey five on the 16th. 'The 16th was like putting on a piece of Ryvita,' Roe said.
It was a day for umbrellas, as long as you could hold on to them. Sir Peter Joslin, the chief constable of Warwickshire, could not. His umbrella was stolen.
MURPHY'S ENGLISH OPEN (The Belfry) Leading third-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 211 P-U Johansson (Swe) 71 68 72; F Lindgren (Swe) 69 68 74. 213 S Grappasonni (It) 70 69 74; M Roe 69 69 75. 214 V Fernandez (Arg) 69 72 73; B Ogle (Aus) 72 67 75. 216 L Tinkler (Aus) 70 72 74; K Waters 71 69 76. 217 A Binaghi (It) 73 73 71; R Chapman 72 69 76; B Lane 70 69 78; R Davis (Aus) 67 72 78. 218 P O'Malley 75 72 71; S Luna (Sp) 73 71 74; P Price 72 69 77. 219 R Lee 75 72 72; J Townsend (US) 72 75 72; P Lonard (Aus) 72 74 73; P Mitchell 75 71 73; P Way 74 71 74; V Singh (Fiji) 73 71 75; G Cali (It) 71 72 76; C Rocca (It) 72 70 77; S McAllister 70 71 78. 220 W Westner (SA) 74 73 73; S Tinning (Den) 76 71 73; J Robson 75 72 73; R Claydon 73 73 74; J Coceres (Arg) 72 74 74; S Little 76 70 74; G J Brand 75 71 74; R Allenby (Aus) 75 70 75; H Clark 73 71 76; R Winchester 75 66 79; P Broadhurst 69 71 80; A Murray 70 70 80. Selected: 221 C Montgomerie 71 71 79.
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