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Bernd Wiesberger on course for record Scottish Open win


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Given the name of the host venue, Bernd Wiesberger has found a fitting place to continue his own career renaissance. They will be calling him Da Vinci in the locker room at this rate.

With another display of poise, purpose and canny craft, the 33-year-old Austrian’s routing of The Renaissance roared on as he eased into a two-shot lead heading into the closing round of the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

Wiesberger’s six-under 65 hoisted him on to a 20-under aggregate of 193 and gave him a cushion of a couple of strokes over South Africa’s Erik Van Rooyen.

The Scottish Open record books, meanwhile, are preparing to be torn up and re-written. A 20-under tally in relation to par is the lowest winning total in the championship’s history, a standard set by Brandon Stone last year and Ian Woosnam in 1987. With 18 holes still to go of the 2019 edition, Wiesberger is on course to smash that particular figure.

Having missed seven months of the 2018 campaign with a wrist injury, the highly-talented Wiesberger, who remains as composed as the Vienna Philharmonic, is a man reborn.

His victory in the Made in Denmark event this season, the fifth European Tour win of his career, gave him renewed vigour and a second place last week in the Irish Open provided him with plenty of momentum in this triple whammy of links showpieces that will culminate in the forthcoming Open Championship.

Portrush ready to welcome the Open

With success comes a sense of serenity of mind too. “I’ve really enjoyed my time on the golf course a lot more after being able to lift the trophy in Denmark,” he said. “With that, a lot of expectation and pressure has fallen off of my shoulders.

“I’d been in a position where I didn’t play well early in the year and thoughts of keeping my tour card – which has never been an issue for me – were creeping into the back of my mind.

“With that now gone, I have a free mind and I’m able to just enjoy my time out on the course.”

He certainly did yesterday, although a bogey on the 17th – his first dropped shot in 21 holes – helped nearest rival Van Rooyen close the gap to one.

Wiesberger responded in style on the last, however, and lofted a fine approach through the tree branches to within a few feet and knocked in the birdie putt to make swift amends for the earlier mishap.

“I caught a bit of fire before the turn with four birdies in five holes and, although it kind of stalled a bit, I was happy to get a couple more late in the round and I am quite pleased with the way I handled myself and finished off,” he said.

There is still plenty of golf to be played today but the softly-spoken Wiesberger did afford himself a little keek ahead to the prospect of adding another title to his collection.

“If I win I’ll probably celebrate with some Scotch,” he said. “When I won the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea [in 2012] I was allowed to blend my own Scotch up at St Andrews with their master craftsman. Maybe that’s one that could be opened?”

While Wiesberger has had his injuries to contend with, Welshman Jamie Donaldson’s own wrist problems have caused him considerable consternation.

His recovery continues apace this week, though. The 43-year-old, who secured the winning point for Europe in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, kept himself in the upper echelons with a 65 for a 15-under tally. He is also on course to plunder one of three Open spots up for grabs and earn a return to Portrush where he won the Irish Open in 2012.

The first prize on offer in East Lothian today is a whopping £930,000. It would be slightly bigger than the 900 quid Donaldson won this year for a win on the 1836 Mini Tour in Cheshire which he played on as part of his rehabilitation.

Donaldson, who reached a high of No.23 in the world but is languishing down in 1199th, has dropped just one shot in 54-holes this week.

“I think I’ve played as well as I did at the Ryder Cup,” he said of his long journey back to prominence.

“It’s difficult to say when I expected this to come. When you’re off injured, when you go out and try to hit balls but can’t hit any shots you feel so far off where I am now. You do fear it [his career] could be over but I was just hoping it wasn’t. There was no Plan B.

“These things just take time and you’ve got to be patient. I waited seven months to come back and play. Psychologically you’ve got to get over the initial worry that you’re going to hurt it again.

“I’ll be keeping an eye on the leaderboard, I really want that Open spot of course, but winning is more important than that. That’s the primary goal.”

READ MORE: Padraig Harrington on the Open Championship

Henrik Stenson, the Open champion at Troon in 2016, went 52 holes without a dropped shot before a double bogey on the 17th left him six shots off the lead alongside Matt Fitzpatrick and Italy’s Andrea Pavan, who made the cut on the mark of five-under on Friday night but surged through the field with a charging 62.

Pavan certainly made the most of his great escape from initially thinking he would be looking for an early flight home.

“I walked out of the recording area thinking I missed the cut on Friday, and I was preparing dinner and then all of a sudden I got a text from my caddie saying, ‘hey, get ready because you’re playing tomorrow.’,” said Pavan, who had missed the cut in both starts since winning the BMW International Open last month.

Former world No.1 Justin Thomas was eight shots off the pace following a 70.

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