The golf at the Peugeot French Open was played out to the tune of snapping flags behind the 18th green, and splashing balls into pond. While Steven Richardson equalled Paul Broadhurst's course record of 63 on Friday, the Hampshire golfer found the water on each of the first two holes to start with a double-bogey and a bogey. But he avoided further disasters and an eagle at the last, thanks to a seven-iron to four feet, gave him a 71 for a three-round total of 202 - 14 under par - one in front of the Australian Robert Allenby, who shot a 68, and two ahead of Broadhurst.
Allenby, who won the English Open at Forest of Arden three weeks ago, birdied the last three holes and would have tied for the lead had his eagle attempt at the last not run over the edge of the hole. Each was set up by his seven-iron, the club with which he had gone through the back at the first only for his ball to be stopped, fortuitously, by an effects mike. From there, of course, he holed the putt.
Broadhurst, the defending champion, took a two-shot lead at 15 under with three birdies in a row from the ninth. But things were going too well and he failed to avoid a pair of double-bogeys, at the par-five 14th where he pulled his second into deep rough and at the short 16th where he went in the water. Worse was to befall his playing partner, Ian Woosnam, who had no fewer than four doubles - at the first, ninth, 15th and 16th.
In a tournament described by the sadly departed Montgomerie as a putting contest after he missed the cut on Friday, the last person who might be expected to make a move was Bernhard Langer. But reports of the German's demise have, apparently, been exaggerated. "I'm still alive, thank you," Langer said after returning a 67 to creep on to the leaderboard in joint fourth place at 10 under.
Langer was disqualified at the US Open for signing for a wrong score. It was such a bad score he would not have made the cut anyway. On the first hole of his second round, he four-putted and the yips, a term as ugly as the affliction itself, seemed to be returning. Yesterday he three- putted the first for a bogey, but he had picked up five birdies by the turn and confidently two-putted from 50 feet for another at the last.
"I have been saying a lot of prayers," Langer said when he was asked about the transformation. "And so has my wife. She is my prayer warrior." For those of us who require a more technical explanation, the German added: "I have changed my putter and gone back to a Bullseye, with which I feel more comfortable. I have added more loft so that I can push my elbow forward. My arm is now in a more natural position, but when I tried that before, the clubface looked closed.
"At the US Open I was down with myself and not happy, but those were the hardest conditions and the hardest greens which we play on. But there is always hope in golf. Every day is different."
Langer would prefer similarly windy conditions today, however, to give him a chance of extending his run of winning on the European Tour for each of the last 16 years.
At seven under, though, Seve Ballesteros may be too far back. Even though his driving has meant that he has visited much of the spectator banking on the National course, his iron play is showing signs of improvement. A two-iron from 215 yards to within four feet of the cup at the 17th was the highlight of his third-round 71.Reuse content