Versailles – Kevin Stadler began his final round at the French Open under light rain on Sunday, bidding to become the first American winner in Paris since Barry Jaeckel in 1972.
The 34-year-old from Nevada carried a four-shot lead into the last 18 holes with surprise French contender Victor Riu and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee his closest rivals.
Stadler, son of former PGA star and 1982 Masters’ champion Craig “the Walrus” Stadler, is aiming for a third career tournament win on his first visit to the spectacular Albatross layout, the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup, just outside Versailles.
Riu, who closed to within one shot of Stadler in Saturday’s third round before six bogeys down the home stretch, is also bidding to qualify for his first major tournament, the Open, which begins at Hoylake on July 17.
The player from just up the road at Saint-Nom-la-Breteche needs to be one of three potential top 10 finishers, who haven’t already qualified to seal his place in the field at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club.
“Of course it would be great,” said Riu on his Open chances, where American Phil Mickelson will be defending champion.
“But my first goal is to play well at this tournament and if I can play the British, it would be fantastic. But the first thing and my first goal is to play very good here.”
He was set to tee off in the penultimate group alongside US Open champion Martin Kaymer, with Stadler and Jaidee the last pairing to go out.
“To play with Martin Kaymer will put a bit of pressure on me and I’m sure there will be a lot of people, but I’m looking forward to it,” added Riu.
Jaidee moved into contention on Saturday with a two-under-par 69, while Kaymer carded a 70 to stand alone in fourth, a further two shots back.
“It’s going to be a very challenging day,” said Jaidee.
Englishman Matthew Baldwin and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger were tied for fifth on two under, while a group of five players including defending champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland are a further shot adrift.
Sweden’s Robert Karlsson, Irishman Damien McGrane, Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland and Englishman Mark Foster were all part of this group, chasing the three top ten places that will book a ticket to the British Open. – Sapa-AFP