Poulter bolsters Ryder Cup bid

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The Independent Online

The English duo of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter share the lead on 13 under par going into the final round of the Volvo Scandinavian Masters here yesterday. Poulter carded a 68 while Westwood, last year's European No 1, handed in a 69 to sneak one shot clear of Colin Montgomerie and Sweden's Peter Hedblom at Barseback Golf and Country Club.

The 1999 Open champion, Paul Lawrie, is a further shot adrift after a 65, the best round of the day, and Darren Clarke, Warren Bennett and France's Thomas Levet are three off the lead on 10 under.

Poulter is chasing his third European Tour title and victory would lift him much closer to qualifying for next month's Ryder Cup. Of the 10 players between him and the 10 automatic qualifying positions for the European team, only Levet, Ian Woosnam and Andrew Oldcorn made the cut here. But with Woosnam back at one over and Oldcorn disqualified yesterday, Poulter should climb the table today.

The confident 25-year-old from Hertfordshire is unlikely to be perturbed by playing alongside the back-to-form Westwood for a second successive day. "I'm not fazed at all," said Poulter, who won the Italian Open last autumn and the Moroccan Open earlier this season. "I never get nervous, I can relax every night with the guys and it will be no different tonight. I'm here to do a job and it doesn't matter who I play with."

Poulter, who failed to qualify for last month's Open at Lytham, has had his Ryder Cup hopes further boosted after receiving an invitation to the final major of the season – the USPGA Championship in Atlanta from 16-19 August.

Westwood, the defending champion, was delighted simply to hole a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th to tie Poulter for the lead and ensure his presence in today's final group.

"It was a nice way to finish," said the 28-year-old from Worksop, who had missed four cuts in his previous six tournaments after taking a break around the birth of his first child in April. "It's important to be in the last group because you can see what everyone is doing. You can see what's going on in front of you and I'm a great believer in watching the scoreboards. It's nice to have holes in credit and to know what you have to do."

Oldcorn's Ryder Cup hopes were dented when he disqualified himself for taking an incorrect drop from behind an advertising board on the 10th hole during his first round. When the Volvo PGA champion found himself in a similar position on the ninth hole yesterday, he realised his mistake and called the penalty on himself. "It's disappointing but it's nobody's fault other than mine," said the 41-year-old Scot who was two over par at the time and is currently 14th in the Ryder Cup standings.

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