Kjeldsen claims sole lead in Ireland

Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen will take a two-shot advantage into the final round of the Irish Open at Royal County Down.

The World No 303 outplayed his higher-ranked rivals with a four-under-par 67 on Saturday – though it could have been so much better.

After playing his first 16 holes bogey-free and picking up six birdies thanks to a red-hot putter – including three in a row from the 11th – Kjeldsen closed bogey-bogey at the 17th and 18th to finish on seven under par and reduce what would have been a four-shot cushion to just two.

“I’ll focus on the first 16 holes because I played beautifully and didn’t really do much wrong on the last two, so I feel pretty good,” Kjeldsen told Sky Sports after his round.

“I hit a bad tee-shot at 17, but played the rest of the hole really well and then on 18 I thought I played it beautifully but only made a six, it was so windy! It’s too early to think about that (winning), but I’m very pleased to be in the position I am in.

“If you had given me 67 stood on the first tee I would have been very happy.

“It’s a fantastic tournament this year, maybe better than ever, and on a wonderful golf course,” he added.

Kjeldsen’s late stumble means the tournament is still there for the taking on Sunday.

Lying two shots back are Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, who shot a 69, and Germany’s Maximillian Kieffer, who rocketed up the leaderboard with a superb 65 – a course record.

“I played very well today and holed a lot of putts, but I also had some luck when I hit a bad shot, which you are going to do in these conditions,” said Kieffer, who mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey.

A further shot back are Tyrrell Hatton (70), Bernd Wiesberger (70) and Richie Ramsay, while Niclas Fasth lies alone in seventh on two under par after a 67.

Several contenders fell out of the running on Saturday, including Padraig Harrington, who slumped to a 78, and Rickie Fowler, who finished with a pair of eights – a quadruple-bogey and a triple-bogey – to post a disappointing 76 and crash out of contention.