Ian Woosnam began the day 10 strokes off the lead. He was five behind on completing his third round. By the end of the day he was only trailing by one, courtesy of blustery conditions on the third day of the Lancôme Trophy.
What might have been a pedestrian day with a couple of leaders sailing clear of the field was mightily altered by the tricky conditions. This event, usually staged in September, has been likened by some to a garden party; but even Parisian garden parties have a season.
It was odd to see St-Nom-la-Bretêche with the leaves on the ground instead of the trees this week; yesterday they were being blown around everywhere. Much like most of the golfers. The exception to the rule was the diminutive Woosnam, whose 65, six under par, was the best round of the day by two strokes.
The wind got up to over 20mph and was also from a different direction than earlier in the week, when conditions had been so good for scoring. Maarten Lafeber had reached the halfway stage at 12 under par to lead by two from Alex Cejka. With a birdie at the first the Dutchman went three clear, and at the turn he had reached 14 under.
Woosnam finished at eight under, at which point Lafeber had fallen back by one. "If I can stay five behind I can still win," said Woosnam. "I played nicely this afternoon. It was very tricky, with a lot of holes playing with a crosswind."
The final threeball suffered the most. They only managed one birdie on the homeward half and that was from Ricardo Gonzalez, who was on his way to a 77.
Cejka came home in 38 and Lafeber in 40, a double bogey at the 14th pushing the Dutchman back into a tie for the lead. Both bogeyed the 15th and finished at nine under. Joining Woosie at eight under were Bradley Dredge, his compatriot Greg Turner, Ian Garbutt and Simon Dyson.
Woosnam was not quite correct when he said Lafeber would be playing under the pressure of home-crowd expectations. But he was spot on in suggesting that the 28-year-old from Eindhoven has yet to win on the European Tour. Cejka, the Czech-born German who now lives back in Prague, has a better pedigree but his three wins, including the Volvo Masters, all came in 1995.
It is exactly a year to the weekend that Woosnam, who this week threw his hat into the ring to be the next Ryder Cup captain in 2004, won the Cisco World Match Play, a title he will defend this coming week. "Last year I was playing well but having the odd bad hole, but that is fine in match play," he said. "I had nothing to lose and I am probably back in the same position this time – although I feel I need to pick my game up a bit." Joining Woosie at Wentworth will be Nick Faldo and Sergio Garcia, both of whom finished at six under. Faldo was kicking himself for bogeying the last two holes but otherwise had played nicely for a 68. He remains annoyingly inconsistent, however, having opened with a 65 and followed it with a 74. "I could be joining the Greg Turner fishing tour in New Zealand soon," Faldo joked.
Garcia had been seven under during the second round but ended up with his second successive 70. "If you are three back there is still a chance," said the defending champion, who made up four strokes in the last four holes to beat Retief Goosen last year. "I made a couple of stupid mistakes but otherwise my game is good. If the weather is like this again tomorrow anything can happen."
For the other Ryder Cup players who are here this appeared to be a tournament too far. Colin Montgomerie could not summon up even a random thought after a 72, Paul McGinley had a 76, while Thomas Bjorn withdrew with a wrist injury after an 81.
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