England’s Ross Fisher and Order of Merit leader Robert Karlsson were left battling for the lead at the Portugal Masters today as Welshman Stuart Manley and former Open champion Paul Lawrie did their own versions of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Manley, 174th on the money list and 575th in the world, had resumed his search for not only his first European Tour victory but also his first top-10 finish with a one-stroke lead.
But two birdies in his first four holes were then followed by a triple-bogey seven at the 510-yard par-four seventh, where he could not recover from hooking his drive into the lake.
The Mountain Ash golfer, who turned professional in 2003 after being a hero of Britain and Ireland’s Walker Cup victory over the Americans, did hit straight back with another birdie.
But when he bogeyed the ninth for an outward 37, he was down in joint-ninth place on 10 under par.
Lawrie, winner of the Open at Carnoustie in 1999 but without a Tour victory since the 2002 Wales Open, went on an amazing rollercoaster ride over the front nine.
An opening drive into rough led to a double-bogey six, but he played the next five holes in a remarkable seven under with eagles on the third and fifth and birdies at the other three.
At 14 under, the 39-year-old Scot led on his own for a while, but then came a triple bogey on the seventh from him as well.
In rough off the tee, he was short of the green in two, pitched over, then chipped far too strongly and three-putted.
All the drama left Fisher with a two-stroke lead. Not that his round had been uneventful.
The European Open champion, who lost a play-off to Karlsson for the Alfred Dunhill Links title at St Andrews two weeks ago, hit five birdies in a row from the second, then another at the short eighth to turn in a superb 30.
He then added his seventh birdie of the day on the long 12th.
As for Karlsson, paired with Fisher, he was in second place after turning in 33 and matching partner’s four at the 12th.
And when the Swede, chasing his third successive victory, grabbed another birdie two holes later he was only one behind.
The odds on him winning the money-list crown were coming down all the time as Lee Westwood, third on the table, three-putted four times in a level-par 72 that kept him on five under.
“Tired golf – my tolerance levels are very low,” he said afterwards.
“And I sounded like Gordon Ramsay if you got up close to me out there.”