Beal closes onfirst Tour win

England's Andrew Beal held a slender lead over the field midway through the third round of the £210,000 North West of Ireland Open at Slieve Russell. Beal, from Salisbury, began the day in a three-way tie for the lead on eight-under-par after rounds of 67 and 69.

England's Andrew Beal held a slender lead over the field midway through the third round of the £210,000 North West of Ireland Open at Slieve Russell. Beal, from Salisbury, began the day in a three-way tie for the lead on eight-under-par after rounds of 67 and 69.

Birdies at the first and second soon took him ahead of the field at 10 under par before the Italian Massimo Scarpa - who plays right-handed, but chips left-handed - joined him at the top of the leaderboard with his fourth birdie of the day on the ninth.

However, Beal then birdied the 10th to move to 11 under as he sought his first win on the European Tour. His previous best finish was third in the Madeira Island Open in 1998.

Germany's Tobias Dier was the clubhouse leader on nine under after equalling the course record of 65, set minutes earlier by the Swede Henrik Stenson. Two more Swedes were nine under on the course, Mikael Lundberg and Olle Karlsson, both having six holes to play. Stenson's 65 had taken him to eight under and gives the 24-year-old a good chance to overtake Ireland's David Higgins on the top of the Challenge Tour Order of Merit. Higgins missed the cut here.

The defending champion Costantino Rocca could only manage a third-round 74, but the Italian was no doubt relieved to be playing at all having missed his last seven cuts in a row. Meanwhile, the halfway leader Sophie Gustafson's start to the third round of the women's British Open at Woburn was delayed by more than two hours because of thunderstorms.

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