Prague - Three-time
major champion Padraig Harrington rolled back the years with a majestic
third-round 65 on Saturday to claim a share of the lead ahead of the
final day of the Czech Masters.
The 46-year-old Irishman, who has only won one European Tour title
since lifting the 2008 PGA Championship trophy, carded seven birdies in a
bogey-free day to sit atop the leaderboard alongside Italian Andrea
Pavan on 17-under par for the tournament.
"In my mind I was trying to rationalise that I've got to get 20-under
par for the tournament and obviously I got quite a long way down that
road, we're three ahead of the pack so hopefully we move ahead and get
out there and have good front nines and have it as a duel between the
two of us," Harrington told europeantour.com.
Belgian Thomas Pieters, who is looking to press his claims for a
Ryder Cup place, struggled to a 71 to slip six shots off the pace,
alongside Eddie Pepperell - the only player in the field who can push
himself into the European team's automatic qualification spots with a
win this week.
Overnight leader Gavin Green is now alone in third place, three shots back, after the Malaysian settled for a two-under 70.
Harrington, who also won back-to-back British Open titles from
2007-2008, has dropped to 346 in the world rankings and is only 204th in
the European Tour's Race to Dubai this year.
But he has only made one bogey all week, and will head into Sunday's final round looking for a 16th European Tour victory.
However, Harrington is wary that his exceptional round may have come one day too early.
"It took a lot out of me, a lot of focus and I holed the putts that you'd like to be holing on a Sunday," he said.
"I'm hoping there's still another round in it but it was certainly
one of those days that you'd like to get on a Sunday afternoon rather
than a Saturday afternoon."
World number 253 Pavan also carded a 65 with seven birdies, as he looks for his first European Tour win.
"I'm definitely looking forward to playing with Padraig tomorrow,"
the 29-year-old said. "It's the first time I'm in this position on the
European Tour so it will be good, probably a long day but I'll just try
to keep doing my own thing and not watch him too much."
Leading third round scores from the European Tour's Czech Masters in Prague on Saturday (par 72/GBR & IRL unless stated):
199 - Andrea Pavan (ITA) 65-69-65, Padraig Harrington 66-68-65
202 - Gavin Green (MAL) 64-68-70
203 - Scott Jamieson 67-68-68
204 - Nino Bertasio (ITA) 66-71-67, Pachara Khongwatmai (THA) 69-67-68, Tapio Pulkkanen (FIN) 65-69-70
205 - Eddie Pepperell 66-71-68, Lee Slattery 65-72-68, Alexander Knappe (GER) 67-69-69, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 64-70-71
206 - Scott Vincent (ZIM) 67-71-68, Callum Tarren 64-72-70, Lee Soo-min (KOR) 66-69-71, Tom Lewis 69-66-71
207 - Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN) 68-72-67, JC Ritchie (RSA) 70-70-67, Adam Bland (AUS) 71-68-68, Jordan Smith 70-69-68, Maximilian Kieffer (GER) 69-70-68, Matthias Schwab (AUT) 69-69-69, Nacho Elvira (ESP) 65-73-69, Jacques Kruyswijk (RSA) 70-68-69, Aaron Rai 67-68-72