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Tuesday 12 December 2017

McGinley rues stalling as he drives to BMW third

SHOOTING a best-of-the-day 66, despite wet and windy conditions in Cologne, gave Paul McGinley joint third at the BMW International Open, along with Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (69) and England's Chris Wood.

For the 45-year-old Dubliner, it was a third top-seven finish in his last four starts, but he was left to rue his Saturday 77 after being joint second at halfway.

"Obviously there's a gaping thing in the week and I've got to give some thought to why I lost my speed on the greens and my confidence," said the Dubliner.

"I had five three-putts - I don't think I've ever had that in my life - but it was a good reaction and I'm really looking forward to this week's Irish Open.

"Royal Portrush is one of my favourite courses in the world and I've played it a lot over the years."

First, though, he has the Sunningdale qualifier, where he has failed to make it through three of the past four years.

He teed off again today as part of a 96-strong field battling for 10 places in next month's Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

There was no wild partying for the winner in Cologne, England's Danny Willett, after he secured his first European Tour victory - he also had 36 holes to play at Sunningdale today.

The 24-year-old from Sheffield finally tasted victory after no fewer than 19 top-10 finishes when he beat Australian Marcus Fraser on the fourth hole of a play-off.

"It's a lot of events," said Willett when reminded that he had finally won at the 106th time of asking.

"I've been in some terrible places mentally. When you are in your bad spells you doubt whether you are good enough to win or compete."

It is probably even harder when there are great expectations.

He followed American star Rickie Fowler as number one on the world amateur rankings in 2008, the year after he was a team-mate of Rory McIlroy - another holder of the position for a spell - at the Walker Cup.

Even before turning professional he had a round of 64 at the Spanish Open, but last season the clergyman's son dropped from 23rd to 91st on the money list and battled injuries.

"I've had some ups and down in the last 18 months, but I'm injury-free now and I want to thank everybody for the support they've given me."

Willett is now close to reclaiming a place in the world's top 100 after falling to 204th entering last week's tournament.

He was three clear with 10 holes to play yesterday, but then came three bogeys and he needed Fraser to drop a shot on the last for them to tie on 11 under par.

Fraser holed from 12 feet at the first hole of sudden death to stay in it, Willett missed from four on the next when the chance was there to end it, but he then almost chipped in two holes later - it was the 456-yard 18th every time - and Fraser three-putted from 30 feet.

Joint third along with McGinley were Spain's Fernandez-Castano (69) and England's Wood, who bogeyed the short 17th when sharing the lead and is still seeking his first Tour title after 100 events that include 17 top 10 finishes.

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