Justin Rose of England lines up a putt on the fourth green during the third round of the Frys.com Open on Saturday. (AFP)
Brendan Steele shot a three-under-par 69 to retain the lead after the third round of the Frys.com Open on Saturday, while world number three Rory McIlroy endured another mediocre day on the greens in northern California to slide out of contention.
Steele, on 14-under-par, holds a one-shot advantage over fellow Americans Andrew Loupe (63) and Kevin Na (64), with world number seven Justin Rose (68) among a group of eight two shots back on a crowded leaderboard at the Silverado Resort.
McIlroy shot a mediocre 71 to slip eight strokes from the lead in an event he is only playing as part of a deal he made with the PGA Tour to play an exhibition in Turkey three years ago.
He said he would use the final round to hone his game for the upcoming stretch on the European Tour.
“It was another one of those days that nothing really went for me, I just couldn’t get anything going, got a little frustrated,” McIlroy told reporters. “I’m going to try and play a good round tomorrow, but one eye on this and one eye further down the road.
“I’m looking at the three tournaments I’ve got coming up, which are important to me because I want to try to win the Race to Dubai again.”
He also had a narrow escape when he was almost struck by Argentine Emiliano Grillo’s tee shot. McIlroy had just played a chip shot from next to the green at the driveable par-four 17th when Grillo’s drive landed only a couple of feet from the surprised the Briton, who clearly received no warning.
European Ryder Cup teammate Rose had a better day. “Today was a test of patience,” the 2013 US Open champion said after a bogey-free round. “I think I did the bare minimum required to keep believing and give myself a good chance tomorrow. It’s going to take something pretty good to pull through and win.”
Steele, seeking a second PGA Tour win, started the day with a two-shot lead but could not extend his advantage despite the benign conditions. “I’m really happy with the state of my game all the way through the bag,” the 32-year-old, who was raised in a small town in the southern California mountains, told PGA Tour Radio.
Loupe picked up shots early and late en route to the best round of the day and a share of the course record in the opening event of the 2015-16 PGA Tour season.
He birdied the first five and the last four holes to move within sight of his maiden tour victory. He has never finished better than fourth on the Tour. South Korean-born Na is seeking his second tour win after several near-misses since his lone triumph in 2011. He jumped into contention with a six-foot eagle at the par-five 16th, and added a tap-in birdie at the last.
Sullivan wins by nine shots
Andy Sullivan won his third European Tour title of the season at Vilamoura, in Portugal, yesterday, dominating the Portugal Masters throughout for a commanding nine-shot victory.
The 29-year-old Englishman, who won twice in South Africa earlier in the year, was already leading by five at the start of the day and he never looked like relinquishing that lead as he carded a superb 66 to finish a massive 23 under par.
Another Englishman, Chris Wood, took second place on 14 under after a final round of 68, with Anthony Wall, Trevor Fisher and Eduardo de la Riva another shot back in joint third.
Sullivan opened with three pars before holing from 25 feet for a birdie on the fourth and two-putting for another on the par-five fifth to reach 20 under par. He was furious with himself for three-putting the 12th for par after finding the green in two, but the former Walker Cup made certain of victory with a birdie on the 14th.
He then picked up further shots on the 17th and 18th to put the seal on a brilliant wire-to-wire success. The win moves Sullivan into the top 50 of the world rankings.
Sullivan’s winning margin of nine strokes has only been bettered on the European Tour by South African Charl Schwartzel, who won the Alfred Dunhill Championship by 12 shots in 2013.
Tiger Woods produced the biggest winning margin of all time when he led home the field by 15 strokes at the 100th US Open in 2000.
Hend holds off Indian duo to take another Macau title
Big-hitting Australian Scott Hend came out top in his latest Macao Open shootout with Anirban Lahiri yesterday as he held off the Indian to win the Asian Tour title by three shots.
Hend held a two-shot lead over Lahiri last year only to see the Indian overhaul him en route to the title but the 42-year-old from Townsville made no mistake this time as he fired a final round of five-under-par 66 for a 20-under total of 264.
His bogey-free effort allowed him to convert an overnight three-shot lead into a seventh Asian Tour win and second in the Chinese gambling enclave after his 2013 success over Lahiri.
“I knew he wasn’t going to go away, he’s a great player,” Hend said of Lahiri.
“I wanted to come out, do my own thing, not worry about what the boys were doing. I knew they had to shoot a good score to catch me.”
Back-to-back birdies from the eighth gave Hend breathing space and two birdie fours at the 13th and last kept the chasing pack at bay.
Lahiri, who endured a tough President’s Cup debut in South Korea last week, started brightly with back-to-back birdies but costly bogeys on 12 and 16 gave Hend breathing room.
The 28-year-old eventually signing for a 66 and 17-under total to share second with compatriot Chiragh Kumar, who fired five birdies and an eagle for a valuable 65.
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