British Masters: Foster fires away at the front

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The Independent Online

Mark Foster is the other professional golfer from Worksop. The one everyone knows, of course, is Lee Westwood. Foster has won once on the European Tour, in a six-man play-off in South Africa. But today will still represent new territory as the 32-year-old leads going into the final round for the first time at the Quinn Direct British Masters.

His advantage over a large chasing pack is two strokes. It was four with a hole to play but that hole was the notorious 18th at the Belfry. A thinned second shot found the lake and if that was the most – the only – disappointing shot of his third round, the most satisfying was the 10-foot putt he holed for the double bogey.

"I didn't know the position I was in but it's a great day, obviously," Foster said after a 69 to be 10 under par. "I was in a bit of a daze off the 18th. It was one bad shot, half-topped to be brutally honest, but you don't have to do too much wrong to make a six at the 18th here.

"But the putt I holed proved I kept my focus and gives me a good mental image to take into tomorrow." Foster won two English Amateur titles and was on a winning Walker Cup team alongside the likes of Padraig Harrington. In his professional career he admits to struggling to maintain the mental side of his game over four rounds.

The test today on the Brabazon course will be severe, not least with Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sweden's Niclas Fasth among those just two strokes behind. While Gregory Bourdy of France produced a 65 to also lie at eight under, others had their moments too. Westwood put his second shot in the water at the ninth and was starting to get frustrated with his putts not dropping when he suddenly conjured three birdies in the last four holes.

Poulter, playing for the fifth week in a row, had admitted to suffering fatigue before the tournament. Almost exactly a week before he gets married next Saturday – with Poulter the question is what the bridegroom will be wearing: "Something special, but classy, hopefully tasteful" – he suffered two double bogeys in three holes at the sixth and the eighth.

The Woburn man responded wonderfully, with four birdies coming home. "I was fuming inside but I'll never give up," Poulter said. "I just need to keep hitting as many good shots as I am. Inside I'm feeling as good as I have for a long time."

Foster's generosity at the last brought Colin Montgomerie back into the frame at six under. Monty recorded his third successive 70 but was left to rue two bogeys in the last three holes.

This is the first of four successive events in Britain and Ireland, with the Seve Trophy, the Dunhill Links and the World Match Play to follow, and though there have been some disappointing absentees here, an exciting finish is still in prospect.

The week has also been notable for the professional debut of Rory McIlroy, the 18-year-old Northern Irishman who made the cut and then posted a 70 yesterday. With the tee moved up at the short par-four 10th, McIlroy was one of the first to go for the green and two-putted forhis birdie.