World Cup team-mates Paul Casey and Justin Rose experienced contrasting fortunes before bad weather disrupted the third round of the Dunhill Championship today.
Casey made the most of his last-hole heroics yesterday to card a 65 this morning and climb back into the top 10, while Rose saw his hopes of successfully defending his title effectively disappear.
Rose finished in style by chipping in for an eagle on the 18th, but could only card a 70 for a six under total of 210, seven shots off the lead.
He and Casey, who took England to joint third in December’s World Cup in Mexico, were at least able to complete their rounds however before storm clouds gathered over Houghton to force the rest of the field off the course.
The oppressive heat throughout the week had sparked off thunderstorms on Thursday and Friday evening, but the bad weather arrived early on Saturday.
With thunder rumbling ominously in the distance and the threat of lightning, play was initially suspended at 2.25pm local time with leader Bradley Dredge surveying an eight-foot par putt on the ninth.
Play was able to resume at 4pm, a delay of 95 minutes, and Dredge held his nerve to hole out for par, only to see South African Bradford Vaughan birdie the 12th to join him at the top of the leaderboard on 13 under par.
But only five minutes of play was possible before the weather deteriorated again and forced the players off for a second time.
Dredge and Vaughan headed the field with Denmark’s Anders Hansen a shot behind and Sheffield’s Mark Roe, playing alongside Dredge, another shot back.
By this stage, Casey had been safely back in his hotel for several hours after completing his 65 well before the leaders had teed off.
Casey carded an opening 67 on Thursday but was seven over par after 15 holes of his second round on Friday, and at two over for the tournament looked certain to miss the halfway cut.
The 25-year-old needed to play the final three holes in three under par to make the cut on the mark of one under, and after a birdie on the 16th and par on 17, came to the last needing an eagle.
The former amateur star found the green on the 531-yard par five in two and duly converted his eagle putt from 10 feet to complete a remarkable escape.
And he carried on from where he left off with birdies at the first two holes followed by a par on the third, and when he birdied the fourth and holed from eight feet on the fifth for an eagle, his last six holes had been played in seven under.
The 2001 European Tour Rookie of the Year was disappointed to bogey the tough par-four ninth, but birdied the 11th and holed a bunker shot on the 16th for another eagle.
“I was trying to force it too much yesterday, pushing on after my good start,” said Casey, who was considered for a Ryder Cup wild card by captain Sam Torrance in 2001, before the contest was postponed for 12 months.
“But I had to take the positives from the day, I knew I had to eagle the last and I did it. Today I went out with a good attitude and although I was a bit disappointed to throw in a bogey and not birdie the last, I’m very happy with a 65.”
Meanwhile Rose conceded his title defence, the first of a possible four this year, was all but over.
Despite playing his last six holes in four under par, the 22-year-old knew there were too many players ahead of him to have a chance of claiming the £79,000 first prize.
“There are too many good players on the leaderboard for them all to slip up,” Rose said.
“But there is still a lot for me to play for tomorrow in terms of world ranking points and prize money for the Order of Merit which could make a big difference at the end of the year.”