Date: June 29, 2008

Green leading Aussie in France

Australian Richard Green is seven shots off the pace heading into the final round of the French Open. Green (four under) trails little-known Pablo Larrazabal (11 under) who enjoys a three-stroke lead after three rounds. The Aussie rocketed up the leaderboard after starting the day in a share of 50th spot thanks to a six-under-par third round which now sees him in equal eighth position. However, Green&aposs day-three heroics look likely to be a case of &apostoo little, too late&apos as he will have to produce a similar effort in the final round to be any chance of claiming an unlikely tournament victory. Fellow Aussie Peter O&aposMalley is a stroke further back on three under. Not even Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, two of Europe&aposs big guns, were able to stop Larrazabal taking the commanding lead after 54 holes. Ranked only 481st in the world and a qualifier for the event, Larrazabal produced a superb four-under-par 67 after reaching halfway sharing top spot with England&aposs David Lynn at Le Golf National near Paris. Now the 25-year-old from Barcelona, playing just his 17th European Tour event, is 11 under with Montgomerie and Dane Soren Hansen his closest challengers and then Westwood and Lynn one further back. “I saw the names &aposMonty&apos and Westwood – I love to shoot lower than those,” he said. “I&aposm not the star of the tournament. I came from the pre-qualifying. There are 156 players and I am maybe the 150th best, but that&aposs not a problem for me.” “If I play like I did today it&aposs going to be fun. I hit the ball great.” A first prize of almost 528,000 pounds ($AU 1,095,204), a two-year tour exemption and a place in the coming Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is there for Larrazabal&aposs taking – but the hardest part has still to come. “The hardest part of trying for your first win is to have patience during a round,” said Montgomerie, 45 last Monday and suddenly back in the spotlight after a slide outside the world&aposs top 100. “You tend to want to go for things and this course is very demanding on you mentally.” Then he remembered his first tour victory back in 1989. “I was four ahead and broke the course record with a 63,” he added. Westwood said of Larrazabal: “He&aposs done well and looks a good player. It&aposs never easy when you have the lead overnight, so well done to him.” “Now he has another night thinking about it.” Larrazabal, whose brother Alejandro was British amateur champion in 2002, birdied four of his first eight holes to take command of the event. Westwood had piled on the pressure with three in his first four and then another on the short 11th but bogeys at the next two set back his bid to make instant amends for his US Open near-miss two weeks ago. Montgomerie then moved into second spot on his own, turning in 33 and adding further birdies on the 10th and long 14th, but he strayed into the rough on the next two and bogeyed both. After his own outward 32 Larrazabal&aposs first bogey came when he also failed to get up and down from beside the green on the 175-yard 16th. But his reply was stunning. The 17th is a 484-yard par four, but his second shot stopped just a foot from the flag. Montgomerie is not in the leading 40 on the Ryder Cup table, but victory could take him into one of the top 10 automatic spots. In that respect the final round is as big a day for him as it is for the leader. This time last year the Scot finished third in the same event, then went and won the European Open in Ireland. He defends that title at the London Club in Kent next week. Five weeks ago cup captain Nick Faldo backed Montgomerie to find his form again, saying: “I believe Monty will turn it around – he has a great way of producing the goods when we really need it.” Larrazabal, though, is seeking to extend a run of shock winners of the title. In 2002 Malcolm Mackenzie won his first tour title at the 509th attempt, then it was Phil Golding grabbing his maiden victory at the 201st try. Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005 despite not being in the world&aposs top 150 either time, two years ago John Bickerton was ranked 189th and Graeme Storm was not in the top 200 when he fired a closing 66 from five back last July. Hansen had been the third round leader then and should he go one better he could leap from 11th to sixth in the Ryder Cup standings. Third Round of the French Open (Par 71), Paris -11: Pablo Larrazabal 65 70 67 -8: Soren Hansen 69 69 67, Colin Montgomerie 69 68 68 -7: David Lynn 70 65 71, Lee Westwood 69 68 69 -6: Markus Brier 70 71 66 -5: Oliver Fisher 66 73 69 -4: John Bickerton 72 69 68, Rafa Echenique 69 71 69, Richard Green (Australia) 73 71 65, Soren Kjeldsen 72 71 66, Graeme McDowell 69 73 67, Charl Schwartzel 73 70 66 -3: Paul Broadhurst 69 69 72, Alejandro Canizares 71 69 70, Ignacio Garrido 68 69 73, Peter O Malley (Australia) 71 72 67, Louis Oosthuizen 70 73 67, Graeme Storm 68 70 72, Miles Tunnicliff 68 71 71, Steve Webster 73 68 69, Tom Whitehouse 71 70 69 Also: -1: Scott Barr (Australia) 75 69 68 E: Rick Kulacz (Australia) 72 71 70