Thomas Bjorn 54-hole leader in Portugal


European TourESTORIL, Portugal – Thomas Bjorn of Denmark withstood a strong challenge from Richard Green of Australia to build a three-shot lead at the end of the third round of the Estoril Open on Saturday.

The 39-year-old Bjorn has not won since recording his ninth European Tour victory at the Irish Open in 2006.

However, after a second straight 7-under 65 took him to 19-under, Bjorn believed he had refound some of the form that earned him two winning Ryder Cup caps early in his career.

“I only played so-so at the beginning of my round,” said Bjorn, who made just one birdie in his first eight holes.

“But I hung in, stayed patient, and once I started making birdies they came thick and fast. And the last couple of weeks I have begun to get my self-belief back.

“Sometimes you can lose your way in golf and wonder whether you will ever play well but now I have started to feel great again.”

Green worked his way to the top of the leaderboard during a playing partnership with Wales’ Bradley Dredge which threatened to turn the final 36 holes of the tournament into their own personal two-man battle.

Green and Dredge began their rounds at 8 under, four shots off the lead, but then picked up 12 shots against par between them in their opening 11 holes. Green had six birdies while Dredge had five birdies, a successful eagle putt from 10-feet on the 8th green, but one bogey.

Their paths, however, diverted at the par-four 14th where Dredge hit his first two shots in rough, then found a greenside bunker where he needed more to get himself out of the hazard and took a triple bogey seven.

Green went onto equal the 16-year-old course record with an 8-under 64 which took him to 16 under and outright second place, but Dredge’s 3-under 69 eventually left him eight shots off the lead.

In third place at 14 under was Ireland’s Damien McGrane after a bogey-free 68, with Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik, and Englishmen Robert Rock and Robert Coles a shot further back in joint fourth.

England’s Chris Wood, at 81 the highest world-ranked player in the field, shot a third round 65 to earn a share of seventh place, but at seven shots behind Bjorn he left himself with a lot of ground to make up.