European Ryder Cup hopeful Peter Hanson shot a 5-under 67 to open a four-stroke lead Saturday after the third round of the European Tour’s Czech Open.
Hanson, who was tied for the overnight lead with fellow Swede Fredrik Widmark, birdied four of the last six holes to finish at 12-under 204 at the Prosper Golf Resort.
“I really took my birdie chances on the way in on 13 and 14,” Hanson said. “I was very happy with the up and down on 16. It was a tough lie just off the green and then the long putt on the last.”
Hanson, who won the Mallorca Open in May, is 15th on the points list, and a victory would move him into the top nine automatic qualifying spots with only next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship in Scotland left on the qualifying schedule.
“The last day will be a bit tense with what is at stake,” he said. “Winning the event is a huge thing, but even with the Ryder Cup there will be tension.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain, who co-designed the 7,155-yard course in this northeastern Czech town, also shot a 67 to move up from 18th to a share of second with Englishman Simon Dyson at 8-under 208.
Jimenez, eighth in the standings, is close to automatically making the Ryder Cup team. Dyson, who is 16th, needs a good result to have a chance to qualify.
“Miguel is trying to hold on to his spot and stay in the team,” Hanson said. “Both me and Simon are trying our best to push our way on to it.”
If either Hanson or Dyson wins on Sunday, they would knock Paul Casey out of the ninth spot.
It is pretty much the nightmare scenario for Casey, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and Luke Donald. Controversially, not one of them has entered for next week's Johnnie Walker Championship, preferring instead to play the first PGA Tour FedExCup playoff event in the United States.
That event carries huge money incentives, but not a single Ryder Cup point, and if Casey does drop out of an automatic qualifying spot, the quartet will all be left hoping for a Ryder Cup wild card -- and Captain Colin Montgomerie has only three.
Montgomerie could even decide to omit more than one of them. Italian Edoardo Molinari, whose brother and World Cup-winning partner Francesco is close to securing a debut, is currently outside the top nine as well.
Hanson, given an invite to the Czech Open only on Monday, led by two after a birdie on the fourth, but then was caught by both Dyson and Jimenez early on the back nine. His response was brilliant. Birdies came on the 13th, 14th, 16th and the 453-yard last -- a hole where Australian Tim Stewart had earlier taken 11.
If Jimenez can finish in the top two on Sunday, he would go past both Francesco Molinari and Ross Fisher and pretty much guarantee himself a fourth Ryder Cup berth. A bad last day, though, and he might yet pay a big price for deciding to attend a nephew's wedding next week rather than go to Scotland.
"I'm going to take a week off -- he moved all dates for that date," said Jimenez. "Tomorrow is very important for the Ryder Cup and I need to play well."
Dyson commented: "I have to be honest, I think the front nine is the best I've ever played. If my putter had been hot it could have been something ridiculous. I would rather be 10 clear, but to give myself a chance is exactly what I wanted to do. It was a long way, but I knew I had to do it."
Fellow countryman Ross McGowan, 11th in the standings compared to Hanson's 15th and Dyson's 16th, could still have a say in things, but everything for him will now rest on Gleneagles after a 73 dropped him to 1 over. Oliver Wilson needed also two big weeks just to have a chance of retaining his place, but after a 74 he was 2 over and almost certainly out of the reckoning.
Meanwhile, former Ryder Cup hero Phillip Price is fourth on 7 under following a 69, and for him the importance of the final round is huge. The man who beat Phil Mickelson as Europe won at The Belfry in 2002 is 141st on this season's money list and, having fallen out of the top 40 in career earnings, needs to finish the year in the top 115 to keep his European Tour card.