Van de Velde Holding on in Portugal


European TourMADEIRA, Portugal -- Jean Van de Velde shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday to take sole possession of the lead heading into the final round at the Madeira Island Open.
The Frenchman stands at 11-under-par 205 for a two-shot lead over 1999 champion Pedro Linhart of Spain, who fired a 3-under 69 Saturday to reach minus-nine.
Jarmo Sandelin, who shared the overnight lead with Van de Velde at 10 under, dropped into a tie for third place following a 2-over 74. He was joined at minus-8 by Damien McGrane (71), Simon Wakefield (68) and Lee Slattery (66).
In all, there are 10 players within five shots of the lead. They are all looking up at a man who has been in this position before, with less than successful results.
Each of the last three times Van de Velde has held at least a share of the lead after three rounds, he has finished a runner-up. Those instances include his collapse at the 1999 British Open, but also the Open de France last year, where a second-place finish helped him re-gain his tour card.
Van de Velde had been playing on invitations only when he finished second at the Open de France. Still, he lost in dubious fashion to Jean Francois Remesy, stumbling to a double bogey on the first playoff hole.
'All I am going to do is concentrate on my game,' said Van de Velde, who battled windy conditions Saturday after the round resumed following a four-hour fog delay.
'Hopefully we will have better conditions (Sunday) and we will see what happens,' he continued. 'It's there -- I am playing well and was under par again today.'
Van de Velde moved to 11 under with a birdie at the third, his second straight birdie at the par-5 hole, but gave that stroke right back with a bogey at the next.
Another bogey at the par-4 ninth dropped Van de Velde to minus-9, but that would be his last dropped shot on the day. He went on to birdie the par-4 14th and the par-5 16th to reach 11 under again.
If Van de Velde can hang on, he would win for only the second time on the European Tour. His only other title came the first time he held a third-round lead -- at the 1993 Roma Masters.
'To me, this all started last year with me starting to play golf and then getting my card again,' said Van de Velde. 'Now here I am leading a tournament, so what else could we hope for?'
Linhart, whose 1999 victory at this event remains his only European Tour title, mixed four birdies with one dropped shot in his round. He was bogey-free until the 18th, where a five dropped him to 9 under.
'I like this place. I come from a hilly golf course in the Canaries so I am used to playing on this kind of course,' said Linhart. 'If I can win tomorrow, then it would change everything, but I don't want to think too much about that.
'When I won here in 1999 I was leading the tournament from the second round, so this is completely different. That was also a long time ago.'
Magnus Persson fired a five-under 67 in his third round to move up 20 places and into a tie for seventh place. He stands at minus-7, along with Garry Houston (72) and Tom Whitehouse (71).
Niclas Fasth (67) and Stephen Gallacher (71) are one stroke further back.
The third round was delayed four hours due to low cloud cover and foggy conditions.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Medeira Island Open
  • Full Coverage - Medeira Island Open