Siem sets up another upset
Marcel Siem is on track to become the third successive shock winner of the Celtic Manor Wales Open.
A day of some spectacular scoring in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor – so different to the second round – ended with German Marcel Siem on track to become the third successive shock winner of the title.
Twelve months after world number 377 Jeppe Huldahl triumphed and two years after it was number 164 Scott Strange, the game’s 294th-ranked player had a bogey-free 66 to reach 11 under par.
Siem, a pony-tailed 29-year-old who has never played a major and whose only previous European Tour victory came six years ago, leads by three from Dane Thomas Bjorn and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
But it was the trio one stroke further back who turned on the most style.
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher set the ball rolling, smashing the course record by two with an eight under par 63 that moved him from 35th to fourth with 18 holes to go.
Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell joined him on seven under with a 64 and then England’s Simon Dyson, seventh in the race for Ryder Cup places, shot 65 to be on the same mark.
European captain Colin Montgomerie could not join the fun, however, on the course where October’s match will take place.
A day after it was revealed he and wife Gaynor were “trying to resolve the issues” after he was linked with a former girlfriend, Montgomerie dropped from 14th to 47th by taking a shocking 42 to the turn and handing in a 76.
In contrast, joint overnight pacesetter Siem, whose greatest claim to fame was winning the World Cup with Bernhard Langer in 2006, did not put a foot wrong.
He birdied the second, fifth, 11th, 14th and 15th to close in on a first prize of £300,000.
Gallacher was seven behind at the start of the day, but the nephew of former Ryder Cup captain Bernard followed six birdies with a brilliant closing eagle, hitting a 242-yard rescue club to within three feet of the flag.
This time last year, the 35-year-old Gallacher was fighting the viral infection sarcoidosis and even had a biopsy to test for cancer.
Steroid treatment brought a cure, but he confesses he has felt “absolutely shattered” this week.
“I’ve been knackered, but I’ve just got a wee bit of belief in myself,” he said.
The former Dunhill Links champion returned to the qualifying school last November, but has no such worries this season after finishing fourth at the BMW PGA Championship two weeks ago.
“Wentworth was big – that took the pressure off the card for next year and meant I could enjoy it more.”
The icing on the cake for Dyson, who had his first top 10 finish of the year last Sunday, was that Montgomerie was playing in the group behind.
“He watched me all day and I didn’t miss a shot,” said the York golfer. “I knew he was there and you want to show what you can do. It’s amazing how you up your game.”
As Dyson spoke to reporters, Montgomerie walked past and said “Well done, Simon”, but he did not feel inclined to stop and discuss his own day’s work – or anything else, for that matter.
“I’ve not even looked at the cup table and don’t know where I am, so don’t tell me,” added the 32-year-old. “Win tomorrow and I’ll have a look maybe.”
McDowell, currently down at 22nd place in the standings, is “desperate” to earn a second cap in four months’ time and while he wants it to be on merit, he knows his friendship with Rory McIlroy increases his chances of a wild card if it comes to that.
“There’s no doubt it will stand me in good stead, but let’s be honest – anybody could partner Rory.
“If I play well tomorrow and it came to the crunch Monty might pull up the stats and find out who played well here.”
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