SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AFP) – Alexander Bjoerk of Sweden joined American Peter Uihlein at the top of the leaderboard going into the final round of the French Open near Paris on Saturday (July 1), with Tommy Fleetwood among those lurking just behind.
Bjoerk and Uihlein sit at eight under par, while Fleetwood is one of a trio of players a shot back at seven under alongside his fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan and Belgium’s Ryder Cup star Thomas Pieters.
Uihlein had held a share of the lead along with Adrian Otaegui at the halfway stage at Le Golf National, the venue to the south-west of the French capital that will host the Ryder Cup in 2018.
However, Otaegui’s hopes of a first tour victory suffered a blow as he shot a three-over-par 74 to slip back to five under, three shots off the pace.
But Uihlein kept himself right in contention with a solid level-par 71, despite a bogey at the first after finding the water with his second shot.
He collected his sole birdie of the day at the long 14th and settled for a par at the last after almost holing a brilliant wedge approach over the water.
“I was proud of the way I handled myself on the back nine. I felt like I hit it a lot better after a shaky start. I’m excited for tomorrow,” said the 27-year-old from Florida.
Bjoerk, the Challenge Tour graduate, started the day a shot off the pace and was struggling as he went out in 38, two over par. But he came back in 32 for a one-under-par round of 70 that leaves a first European Tour title in sight.
There is also the prospect of a place at the British Open on offer, with three spots in the field at Royal Birkdale available for the top non-exempt trio finishing in the top 10.
“I’m happy. Happy with the way I played and the way I fought with the start and I came back in the end,” Bjoerk told europeantour.com. “It should be a lot of fun. Really looking forward to tomorrow.” Fleetwood, who finished fourth at last month’s US Open and is second in the Race to Dubai rankings, had three birdies and three bogeys in a 71.
Sullivan’s 68 was the joint-lowest round of the day as he turned in level par before birdies at the 10th, 11th and the short 16th.
Another Englishman, Paul Waring, who had led after the first round, is not out of it at five under despite a one-over 72. His day was marred by a double-bogey six at the 15th and another at the last when he found the water with his approach.
Sweden’s Alex Noren, the top-ranked player in the field at eight in the world, fired a 69 to sit at four under par.