NEWCASTLE, Northern Ireland (AP) Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark shot a 4-under 67 to take a two-stroke lead Saturday in the third round of the Irish Open.
The 40-year-old Kjeldsen used superior putting to break free of a six-way tie as gusting winds at Royal County Down sabotaged many players’ short games.
He rolled a long eagle attempt on the 12th to within 18 inches, settling for his fifth birdie. On the next hole, his curling 30-yard putt for a sixth birdie left Kjeldsen punching the air in jubilation.
But Kjeldsen, who is ranked 303rd and last won a tournament in 2009, bogeyed the final two holes to reduce his lead over Rafa Cabrera-Bello of Spain and Maximilian Kieffer of Germany.
Kieffer struck a course-record round of 65, one shot lower than the previous best set in 1939 and matched Friday.
”I had the luck you need,” said Kieffer, who joked with his caddie before the round about breaking the record on the 126-year-old seaside links course.
Few others at Royal County Down could say the same. Most of the top-ranked players, including host Rory McIlroy and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, failed to make Friday’s cut as barely a dozen golfers even broke par amid pelting rain and icy gales.
The top-ranked survivor, Rickie Fowler of the United States, fell spectacularly out of contention Saturday. He got an eagle from the bunker on 16 to reach 2 under par for the tournament – then quadruple-bogeyed 17 and triple-bogeyed the final hole to post a 76.
Many golfers found the raised and often domed greens too much to handle in the conditions. Some expressed sympathy for Ireland’s Shane Lowry, who had smashed his putter in frustration Friday.
“I was going to do a Shane Lowry,” said Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, who posted a 72 but missed several birdie chances and fell to 6 over for the tournament, one shot worse than Fowler.
Clarke claimed to be ”quite amazed” that his putter remained intact.
”I just can’t make a putt from anywhere,” he said.