Immelman steps out of Els shadow - Golf - Sport - The Independent

Immelman steps out of Els shadow

Volvo PGA: Young South African follows his mentor along the Burma Road and emerges with a startling 64

A certain experience of the West Course is a desirable commodity, and more than a few Wentworth veterans were populating the halfway leaderboard in the Volvo PGA Championship. But on days like yesterday there is no holding back youthful talent. A pair of 64s, one outside the course record, was scored by two of the coming breed, Paul Casey and Trevor Immelman, in the third round.

A certain experience of the West Course is a desirable commodity, and more than a few Wentworth veterans were populating the halfway leaderboard in the Volvo PGA Championship. But on days like yesterday there is no holding back youthful talent. A pair of 64s, one outside the course record, was scored by two of the coming breed, Paul Casey and Trevor Immelman, in the third round.

While Casey stole up out of the pack, Immelman's effort gave him a two-stroke lead over Sweden's Ryder Cup player Niclas Fasth at 14 under par. His compatriot, Ernie Els, after a 67, and Spain's Ignacio Garrido were a stroke further behind, with Casey in a group on 10 under.

That Immelman was playing alongside Els made it all the more special for the 23-year-old from near Cape Town. "Obviously, I have always looked up to Ernie," Immelman said. "Since I turned pro he has been kind enough to take me under his wing, and I felt comfortable playing with him."

Out in 32, Immelman made his run coming home, birdieing the 11th, 12th and 13th before a three-putt at the 15th for his only bogey. His long putt at the 16th was travelling too fast but hit the back of the cup and went in to set up a triple-birdie finish over the last three holes. At the last he actually lipped out of a chance to tie the record of 63.

Els winced when Immelman said a lot of the shots he played yesterday, especially around the greens, he had learned from Els. But the world No 2 is a fan. "I have known Trevor since he was about seven years old and he is definitely our next star in South Africa," Els said.

Immelman has heard similar things since he was 13 and throughout a fine amateur career. "I would hardly say Ernie and Retief [Goosen] are over the hill," he said. "I've got a long way to go to get to the heights they've achieved." His breakthrough on the European Tour came, appropriately, with a win at the South African Open in January, and he broke into the top 50 in the world ranking earlier in the year.

An important memory will be his victory by three strokes in front of Els in the South African Players Championship in 2000. Els started the day really motoring: par, birdie, birdie, eagle. But he then bogeyed three holes in a row at the end of the front nine.

"I went to sleep there," he said. "That's where I lost my ground. I'm kind of there but I need a good round tomorrow. To win I'll have to go through Trevor." A victory in this event after three second places is high on the Els wish list, and the rust from a three-week layoff should be gone by today.

While Fasth was the only player in the last three pairings to break 70 with a 68, Darren Clarke let his overnight lead slip with two double-bogeys on the front nine. "It's the same thing as all the time," an exasperated Clarke said. "When I hit a bad shot I really pay the penalty." A 72 left the Irishman at nine under, alongside Nick Faldo and Robert Rock.

Rock, the teaching pro from a Tamworth driving range, was briefly tied for the lead after three birdies in his first seven holes. A few of the regulars at the driving range clubbed together to allow Rock to pay his affiliate fee to the European Tour, and after a share of 22nd place in the Benson and Hedges he could be on for another decent cheque today.

With far less wind than on the first two days, scoring was good, particularly when the sun shone in the morning. Eduardo Romero and Stephen Leaney produced 65s and Peter Fowler, extraordinarily, had three eagles and two double bogeys in a 70.

The Australian's first eagle was a straightforward matter at the par-five fourth, where he holed from 10 feet for a three. But at the sixth he holed out with an eight-iron from 147 yards, and then at the 11th he repeated the feat with a nine-iron from 123 yards.

Casey had fallen off the pace on Friday when his drive at the 17th hit a tree and bounced out of bounds on the left, costing a double bogey. The 25-year-old responded with six birdies and an eagle, holing from 40 feet from the right-hand fringe for a three at the last.

After winning the Benson and Hedges at The Belfry a fortnight ago, his third win on tour and the second this season, Casey tied fifth last week in Germany. He has just become the English No 1 ahead of Justin Rose on the world ranking, and will play in the US Open for the first time next month, but none of that seems to have gone to his head.

"I wanted to be at least on the leaderboard by the time the leaders went out," Casey said. "I knew I could be. The course was there for the taking this morning. The weather was perfect, the pace of play was nice, just what you want on a nice Saturday morning."

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