Connor Syme sets Celtic Classic pace following late collapse by Thomas Pieters
Scotland’s Connor Syme will take a slender lead into the final round of the Celtic Classic following a late collapse by former Ryder Cup player Thomas Pieters.
Syme carded eight birdies in a flawless third round of 63 at Celtic Manor to finish 15 under par, a shot ahead of England’s Sam Horsfield, who won his maiden European Tour title a fortnight ago.
Sweden’s Sebastian Soderberg is two shots off the lead on 13 under, with Pieters a further two strokes back in his first event for five months due to the coronavirus pandemic and the birth of his first child in July.
Pieters, who won a record four points on his Ryder Cup debut in 2016, held a three-shot lead after two eagles in the space of three holes around the turn, but ran up a triple-bogey on the 15th after topping his tee shot into heavy rough.
With the ball in an unplayable lie, Pieters was forced to go back to the tee on the short par four and pulled his third shot into a water hazard, eventually signing for a seven and then dropping another shot on the next.
Syme, who regained his European Tour card via the Challenge Tour last year, is seeking a first victory on the main circuit and has dropped just one shot – on the seventh hole on day one – so far this week.
“I played lovely to be honest,” the 25-year-old told Sky Sports. “It was obviously very nice conditions and I got off to a decent start.
“I hadn’t played the front nine quite as well as I’d liked so I managed to get three under through nine which was great, and holed the putts that I had opportunities on. It was a nice base to build on and just played really nice throughout.
“I played well in Austria the first event back and was a bit slow after that to start the UK swing, but finding a bit of form certainly with a made cut in the Hero Open and then gradually a little better last week. I’ve found something in my swing and just rolling with that really.
“I just really played in my own little zone, me and my caddie Lyle were just playing away and felt really comfortable.
“It’s a new experience for me. I’ve had a second place before (in the 2018 Shot Clock Masters) but this is the first time with a chance to win so I’m just going to take it as it comes. I’m excited, it’s a great opportunity and that’s all you can really hope for at the start of the week.”
Horsfield started his third round with eight straight pars, but was rewarded for his patience with birdies on the ninth, 14th and 16th in a bogey-free 68.
“I actually stayed really calm out there,” the 23-year-old said. “I felt like I was actually playing really well, I hit a lot of greens and I was just waiting for my putter to get hot.
“I made a few nice putts, didn’t take advantage of the easy holes on the back nine, but I’m happy with the position I’m in.
“The round I played today would have been very unusual for me in my first year I came out here. I just stuck with it today, stayed patient and when I first came out I was more aggressive and more fiery almost.
“I never got anxious or felt like I needed to get something going. I just sort of let everything happen and that’s one thing that Terry (Mundy, Horsfield’s manager) and I have been talking about a lot; just let things happen, don’t force them, don’t do stupid stuff.”
It’s been a battle – Rory McIlroy delighted to pip rival Patrick Reed in Dubai
The Northern Irishman birdied the final two holes at Emirates Golf Club to card a closing 68 and finish a shot ahead of Reed on 19 under par.
Rory McIlroy holds off rival Patrick Reed with birdie on 18 to seal Dubai win
McIlroy birdied the final two holes at Emirates Golf Club to card a closing 68 and finish 19 under par.
Rory McIlroy leads by three in bid to win his third Dubai Desert Classic title
England’s Callum Shinkwin and Dan Bradbury are McIlroy’s closest challengers heading into the final round.
Golf bid to increase diversity in sport improving but still has ‘long way to go’
Nicola Bennett is an ambassador for the Golf Foundation, helping to drive grassroots campaigns.
Richard Bland boasts share of lead at halfway stage in Dubai Desert Classic
The 49-year-old returned to complete his second round on Saturday morning, carding three more birdies and a solitary bogey in his remaining 14 holes.
On this day in 2009 – Colin Montgomerie appointed Europe’s Ryder Cup captain
The Scot made eight playing appearances in the competition.
Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed set up potential showdown in Dubai
McIlroy and Reed found themselves a shot behind world number one amateur Ludvig Aberg and Ian Poulter.
Rory McIlroy finishes superbly to take share of lead with rival Patrick Reed
The pre-tournament build-up had been dominated by the war of words between Reed and McIlroy.
Patrick Reed makes impressive start after floods cause delay in Dubai
Reed was able to complete 16 holes on a truncated day at Emirates Golf Club.
England’s Aaron Rai shares lead after first round of Farmers Insurance Open
The 27-year-old started on the more forgiving North Course of Torrey Pines.