Casey moves three shots clear in The Celtic Manor Wales Open
Paul Casey moved to the threshold of his fourth European Tour victory when a superb third round 65 at a sunkissed Celtic Manor Resort gave the Englishman a three shot lead to take into the final round of The Celtic Manor Wales Open.
Casey, who started the day two shots adrift of his playing partner Simon Khan, who had shattered the course record with a sensational 61 in the second round, ensured the positions would be reversed for the last day, Casey ending his three rounds on 19 under par 197, while Khan carded a 70 for 16 under par 200.
A blistering start from the 26 year old saw him five under par after five holes – reminiscent of the form which Khan showed on Friday - and indeed Casey could have made the task for the chasing pack even more difficult but he dropped shots at the 12th and 13th.
But showing great determination and application, he put the hiccup behind him with a 20 foot putt for birdie on the 14th and a 15 foot putt for birdie on the 15th before closing with another birdie four on the 18th, two putting from all of 60 feet after his two iron approach had skidded across the putting surface.
“I probably would have taken that at the start of the day,” he said. “As it panned out I still felt I left a few shots out there. But the game is in good shape and I am looking forward to tomorrow.
“Thanks to my start I closed up the gap on Simon nice and quickly. The goal was to be relaxed and to try and have the same attitude I had the first two days. I didn’t have a number in mind but when it gets going like it did today, it would have been nice to have had another 63 like yesterday. After making the mistakes, the goal was to try and finish at 20 under par and we got close, so that was not so bad.”
Overnight leader Khan, looking for his maiden victory on The European Tour International Schedule, was always going to find it difficult to live up to the fireworks of Friday’s 61 during which he became only the fourth player in European Tour history to card 27 for nine holes.
It proved that way but the 31 year old Englishman battled bravely all day and got his just deserts on the final two holes, birdieing the 17th from four feet and the 18th with two putts from the front edge of the green to keep Casey within his sights.
“I did as well as I could I think to put yesterday it out of my head but obviously everyone who hadn’t seen me yesterday came up to me today and congratulated me on the round so it was a little difficult,” he said.
“You try and forget what you did on the previous day on certain holes but it is difficult. I just said to myself to be patient and that you never know what is going to happen round this course.
“Paul played great today but I am still in touching distance and you never know what can happen tomorrow. Paul is in the driving seat but anything is possible. I got a good feel for it being in the last group today and if I can get straight into it tomorrow then who knows. I wanted to be in the last group again, I didn’t want to slip back a group.
“I had a look on the 13th and the 14th and saw that guys were getting up close to me and I thought if I could keep within touching distance then you never know. But I wanted to be playing with Paul again and that is good.”
The closest man in the pack spotted by Khan was South African James Kingston, who posted a third round 66 for a 14 under par total of 202, to finish two adrift of Khan and five back from Casey.
Like the leader, Kingston started like he meant business with five birdies in the first seven holes and although he had to wait until the 18th to get to six under par for his round he professed himself more than contented with his day’s efforts.
“I am very happy with what happened today,” he said. “I managed to hit a few good shots so I’m absolutely delighted. I don’t want to think too much ahead to tomorrow. I didn’t have too many expectations coming into the week, I just wanted to play as well as I could and I have done that and will try to do that tomorrow again.”
Three players shared fourth place on 12 under par 204, John Bickerton, Philip Golding and Colin Montgomerie, the best round of the three and the day coming from Bickerton whose superb 63, which featured a holed eight iron from 144 yards for an eagle two at the eighth, elevated him from a share of 49th place at the start of the day.
Golding carded a 67 and while Montgomerie’s 69 was the poorest of the trio, the 40 year old Scot was pleased with the way he recovered from a double bogey six at the 15th – where he lost his ball – namely birdieing both the 16th and 18th.
“It was good to get it back to 69 and it is always nice to break 70 with a decent eight footer at the last,” said Montgomerie. “That is the longest putt I have made in three days, a clumsy chip before it but I holed from eight, nine feet with a decent putt.
“A score of 69 is not bad and if that is the worst of the week then we can take some comfort from this week and go forward. If 69 is the worst I can do then fine, we can go from here to Gleneagles and we try again. If it doesn’t work there then we try again two weeks later in France and we keep going and it’ll all click in altogether sometime.”
Courtesy of www.europeantour.com