Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines - Swedish youngster Marcus Kinhult will take a two-shot lead
into the final round of the French Open after a four-under 67 on Saturday, as
Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm surged into contention on the Ryder Cup
course at Le Golf National.
The 21-year-old Kinhult, ranked 183 in the world, maintained
his two-stroke overnight advantage ahead of playing partner Chris Wood on
10-under-par for the tournament.
"It's going to be nerve-wracking, the first few holes,
at least," he admitted. "We'll see. I felt the nerves today for sure.
Tomorrow is going to be the same I guess."
Former Masters champion Garcia carded the round of the day
as he looks to boost his hopes of automatic qualification for September's Ryder
Cup, sinking eight birdies in a majestic 64 to reach seven-under and set up a mouth-watering
Sunday pairing with world number five Rahm.
"We'll see what kind of day we have," said Garcia.
"I believe in what I'm doing, and you know, just have as much confidence
as possible, like I was doing today."
The big-hitting 23-year-old Rahm finished in style with
back-to-back birdies, including a curling, downhill 35-footer at the last, and
is four shots behind Kinhult.
The winner looks likely to come from that leading quartet,
although USPGA champion and world number two Justin Thomas is level with fellow
American Julian Suri on four-under.
Kinhult backed up his stunning second-round 65 with another
impressive effort despite a second-hole double-bogey.
He saw his lead extended on the 18th as Englishman Wood
bogeyed, in an oddly low-key finish to an exciting day, as many French
spectators flocked to TV screens to watch their country's dramatic World Cup
victory over Argentina.
It was the round of Garcia which thrilled the crowds early
on as he powered up the leaderboard in his first appearance at the tournament,
despite his only bogey of the day coming at the 18th after driving into the
"You come when you come, and I'm very happy to be here
now," said the 38-year-old.
"Probably I'm more excited to be here this week because
of not being before, so I'm enjoying it."
A blistering run on the back nine ensured that Garcia would
be within touching distance heading into the final day, as he reeled off three
straight birdies, capped by a chip-in from off the back of the 16th green.
The former Masters champion entered the week outside the
automatic Ryder Cup places, but would be expected to make a ninth appearance in
the match play showdown as a wildcard even if he fails to qualify through the
Garcia wasn't the only big name to head to the Albatros
course just outside Paris this week in preparation for the Ryder Cup, with Rahm
and Thomas both proving on Saturday why they will be crucial to their
respective teams' hopes in three months' time.
Rahm started the day only three shots adrift of Kinhult, but
looked in danger of dropping out of the hunt after missing a short putt to
finish a miserable double-bogey on the par-five third.
But a fantastic tee shot to 12 feet on the par-four sixth
set up a birdie, before a late rally edged him to within striking distance.
"After the third hole on the fourth tee box if you tell
me I was going to finish three-under-par today, I would have paid whatever I
could to finish three-under-par," he smiled.
"He (Garcia) had a great round today and to have two
Spanish playing together, contending... It's something great for us and for
Spanish golf, so hopefully one of us gets a win tomorrow."
Former world number one Thomas will lead a strong American
contingent when they bid to win the Ryder Cup on European soil for the first
time in 25 years.
He had to dig deep to salvage a third-round 69, with a
brilliant par save on the final green after finding the water.
"You never know. You get a good 10, 15, 20-mile-an-hour
wind tomorrow and I am more than right there," he said.
Leading third-round scores from the French Open at Le Golf National on Saturday (par 71):
203 - Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 71-65-67
205 - Chris Wood (ENG) 70-68-67
206 - Sergio Garcia (ESP) 72-70-64
207 - Jon Rahm (ESP) 70-69-68
209 - Julian Suri (USA) 70-70-69, Justin Thomas (USA) 70-70-69
210 - Alexander Bjork (SWE) 73-69-68, Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 74-70-66, Alex Noren (SWE) 73-72-65
211 - Pedro Oriol (ESP) 71-70-70
212 - Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 74-67-71, Mikko Ilonen (FIN) 72-69-71, Jordan Smith (ENG) 71-70-71, Thomas Detry (BEL) 74-69-69, Shane Lowry (IRL) 70-75-67, Paul Dunne (IRL) 74-67-71, Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG) 71-69-72
213 - Russell Knox (SCO) 71-70-72, Dylan Frittelli (RSA) 71-71-71, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 73-71-69
214 - Henric Sturehed (SWE) 75-68-71, Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 74-69-71, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 73-71-70, Matthew Southgate (ENG) 71-73-70, Ricardo Gouveia (POR) 71-74-69, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 77-69-68, David Horsey (ENG) 75-71-68, Ian Poulter (ENG) 72-74-68, Bradley Dredge (WAL) 67-72-75