Padraig Harrington has an excellent chance to make the first successful title defence of his professional career at the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Heidelberg this afternoon.
Yesterday's third round began with Englishman Ian Poulter pulling out after hearing his fiancée had gone into labour, and ended with Harrington rising from eighth place into a share of second.
Five shots off the pace after each of the first two rounds, the Dubliner defied windy conditions to come home in 32 for a round of 68 and a 10-under-par total of 206.
"To be level par after nine holes was a big disappointment," Harrington said. "It's easy to go into your own little world and sulk a bit, but I realised there were still 27 holes to go and the leaderboard told me nobody was running away. It was a question of getting my act together."
He promptly made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th, chipped in from 24 yards for eagle at the 12th and added further birdies on the 13th and 15th. But he bogeyed the long 17th after he "fell asleep" on the tee and then missed a six-foot birdie chance at the last.
Harrington and South Africa's Trevor Immelman, who carded 69 yesterday, will start the final round only two strokes adrift of Gregory Havret, the Frenchman having shot 68 to take over at the top from Germany's Alex Cejka, who slumped to a 76.
Poulter, meanwhile, was back home in Milton Keynes celebrating the birth of his second child, Luke James. Due to tee off in the second group of the day at 7.24am, Poulter had received a call in the early hours to tell him he was about to become a father again. The baby arrived a day earlier than expected and too soon for Poulter, eighth in the race for places in Europe's Ryder Cup team in September, to be present at the birth.
Havret's solitary Tour win came in the 2001 Italian Open, but he lost a play-off for the Dunhill Championship in South Africa in January and is 32nd in the Order of Merit, his highest placing. Indeed, he did well to recover from the shock of triple-bogeying the final hole in the second round.
Darren Clarke, seeking his first win in Europe since the 2002 English Open, moved into fifth spot with a 70 - he matched Harrington's eagle on the 12th - and alongside him is Joakim Haeggman after a best-of-the-day 66.
The Swede, one of Bernhard Langer's assistants for the Ryder Cup and winner of the Qatar Masters in March, covered the back nine in 30.Reuse content