Westwood closes in on Parry, and No. 1 ranking, at Alfred Dunhill Links

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Lee Westwood zoomed from 32nd up into a tie for fifth with his third-round 66.
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PA Sport and Associated Press

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Published: Saturday, October 09, 2010 | 2:36 p.m.

John Parry’s lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was halved to two strokes Saturday after the Englishman shot a 1-under 71 in the third round. The Dunhill Links is a pro-celebrity event that is essentially the European Tour’s version of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.

Parry is at 13-under 203 and will face competition for the $804,000 prize money over the final 18 holes at St. Andrews on Sunday from PGA Champion Martin Kaymer (68) and Alvaro Quiros of Spain (68), who are tied for second. All three played at Carnoustie on Saturday. The third course in the event’s rota is Kingsbarns.

Parry won the Vivendi Cup in Paris two weeks ago for his first European Tour victory.

“I take a lot of confidence from my win in France and will go into the final round with the same mindset as I had there,” he said. “I was a little nervous then, but then sometimes nerves can help. They make you concentrate that little bit more.”

The Englishman dropped a shot at the last hole after laying up and failing to hit a 15-foot putt.

“I would have taken level par around Carnoustie today,” he said. “It’s a tough course and it was windy, so 1 under is obviously a good score. But fair play to some of the others shooting 4 and 5 under.

“My mindset was to try and get as far ahead of the field as I could, but I didn’t quite have the pace of the greens and it was just a grind out there.”

Lee Westwood shot a 66 to rise to fifth place. The Englishman will take over Tiger Woods’ No. 1 ranking if he wins or finishes second.

Battling a chronic calf injury, Westwood said he likely won’t defend his title at the Portugal Masters next week no matter where he finishes Sunday.

Westwood, made light of his aching leg after his spectacular 66. It lifted the 37-year-old -- who was close to pulling out on Thursday night -- all the way from 32nd place into a tie for fifth place.

"I think everybody playing out here would love to be able to say they are the best player in the world -- anybody who plays professional sport," said Westwood. "I think it would be the high point of my career without a doubt. We all know how much hard work goes into it, so it's the accolade where you look on the list and you're right at the top and it says number one. (It) obviously it means a lot."

But Westwood is still five shots behind world No. 177 Parry. And thought he was four ahead overnight and five clear at one stage, the 23-year-old Parry was happy enough to shoot his 71.

"I would have taken level par around here -- it's a tough course and it was windy," commented Parry, who had never had a top-eight finish on the circuit until his win. "It was just a grind out there today and it will be nice to go back to St Andrews."

Kaymer, despite finishing with a bogey like Parry, is probably the favorite for the trophy. The PGA Champion leads this season's money list and has won his last two stroke-play tournaments.

Westwood's was the round of the day, however, and given both the weather conditions and his own physical condition it was a remarkable effort as he grabbed seven birdies on what is regarded as comfortably the toughest of the three courses used for the celebrity pro-am.

Westwood is still feeling his leg -- "I last about nine holes before it starts getting sore," he commented - and rates himself only 50-50 to move on to Portugal next week.

Because of how the world rankings work, he would be guaranteed the world No. 1 spot if he skips the event. But getting fit is his priority.

"My main priority is to get into shape for The Masters at Augusta next April," he added. "What I don't want to do is keep going around in circles and have to rehab it all the time.

"I want to get back to it being 100 percent if I can. I got it back to a state where I could play the Ryder Cup, but I needed to take time off after that to finish the recuperation and I've not allowed myself to do that."

He would not be the first to go to No. 1 without first winning a major -- Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples and David Duval all did it.

Playing partner Ernie Els, one of four players who have knocked Woods off top spot during his career, commented: "Lee drove it beautifully, his irons were good, his whole game is there. I can't see any reason why he can't win tomorrow. And to go to No. 1 would be a wonderful achievement if he can do it."

Monday's Ryder Cup-winning hero Graeme McDowell bogeyed his last two holes to slip seven behind Parry and on Westwood stated: "I would love to see him get to No. 1.

“I think it would cap what's been a great year for European golf. I fully believe he's the No. 1 form-wise and if it was not for the injury he would be there already. I truly believe that,” he added. "It would be huge for European golf (especially as Westwood is not going to join the PGA Tour next season). It's been a dominating year for us and that would really underscore it."