Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen described today’s third round at the Ballantine’s Championship as “unplayable and unfair” despite maintaining a two-shot cushion at the top of the leaderboard with one day remaining.
The 35-year-old carded a three-over 75 in extremely blustery conditions on Jeju Island, but with exceptionally strong winds affecting all the golfers out on the par-72 Pinx Golf Club course today that was enough to keep his overnight lead on a total of six under ahead of Spain’s Pablo Martin.
An early start to avoid the gusts of up to 40mph forecast for this afternoon was made impossible by thick fog shrouding the course as the day got under way.
When the players finally took to the links over three hours later than the intended 7am start they were greeted by already blustery conditions, which eventually led to only one player in the 74-man field breaking par.
With the ball often seen to be moving on the greens, a number of players asked for the round to be called off.
But despite their protests play continued, a decision which Derksen – despite still being in a strong position going into the final day – disagreed with.
When asked for his assessment of the round, he answered: “Unfair and unplayable.
“The ball moved. It was rolling away from you on the greens. Now normally when that happens they call it off.
“Today it happened about five or six times, but they didn’t call off the round. If they didn’t do it today then why have they in the past, and why will they again in the future?”
Derksen had at one point threatened to extend his lead over the chasing pack, as Thongchai Jaidee and Kang Wook-soon started to fall off the pace.
Making the turn at one over, he holed an eagle on the par-five 10th to move to 10 under, and despite losing a shot on the next hole a birdie at the 13th put him five shots clear.
But then a run of four consecutive bogeys on the final four holes dragged his score back to three over to make sure the lead will still be contested on the final day.
And he did admit that, despite the controversy over the decision to play on, the tournament should not suffer as a consequence.
“The tournament is four rounds, so I don’t think (it will spoil the event),” he said. “But the best player should win, and today it was about a lot of luck.”
Meanwhile, Martin’s round of 74 was enough to move him into second place and put him in a good position to fight for the win tomorrow.
Should he claim victory here in Korea it would be his first win since he won the Portugal Open in Estoril in 2007 as an amateur.
Two shots behind Martin are yesterday’s second-placed duo of Thongchai Jaidee (77) and Kang Wook-soon (77), along with Kang Kyung-nam (75) who held the lead briefly on the opening day following a round of 66 during the morning session.
Thongchai did briefly look like he would make a challenge today when he hit back-to-back birdies at three and four and went into the seventh hole tied with Derksen on nine under.
A double bogey at that hole and bogeys on his next two before the turn effectively ended that challenge as, despite an eagle on the 10th, his final eight holes included two further double-bogeys and three bogeys.
Frenchman Francois Delamontagne had the day’s best round, becoming the only player to tally below par with a score of one-under 71, who hoped his score today would push him into contention for a top-10 finish.
He is in a five-way tie for sixth which includes three-time Major winner Ernie Els.
The South African had looked like being able to move up on the leaders when he moved to four under after 10 holes after starting from a position of two under this morning.
But his round fell apart from the 14th as he needed a shot more there, then ended the day with a pair of bogeys at 17 and 18 for a round of one-over 73, leaving him one under overall.
World number nine Henrik Stenson endured a horror round due to the blustery conditions, ending the day seven over after beginning from two under thanks to a round of 81, which included three consecutive bogeys plus a triple bogey, a double bogey and a further, final bogey over the course of three holes on the back nine.
Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal had a similarly tough day, carding a seven-over 79.