It may have been dubbed ’Car-nasty’ in 1999, but Carnoustie appeared to be holding no fears for Dunhill Links pace-setter Branden Grace today.
Already five clear of the star-studded field after rounds of 60 at Kingsbarns and 67 at St Andrews, the South African quickly picked up two more birdies when he switched to the toughest of the three courses used for the £3m celebrity pro-am.
Seeking a remarkable fifth win of the season – three on the European Tour and one on his home circuit last Sunday – the 24-year-old was up to 19 under par.
Dane Thorbjorn Olesen remained five behind after an eagle on the 516-yard third at Kingsbarns, but then came a further two-stroke gap to Grace’s compatriot Anton Haig.
Many of the biggest names were simply fighting to survive tonight’s cut and twice winner Padraig Harrington’s chances were greatly boosted when he went to the turn in a three-under 33 at St Andrews.
On three under par, however, the Dubliner was still outside the expected mark, while Open champion Ernie Els and Ryder Cup pair Martin Kaymer and Peter Hanson were alongside him.
Paul Lawrie was the other member of Jose Maria Olazabal’s side competing, but with nine to play he was down in joint 100th spot on one under and only the top 60 and ties progress to tomorrow’s final round at the Home of Golf.
Shane Lowry is currently best of the Irish at -7.
Grace had only his second bogey of the week on the 478-yard ninth and his lead was down to three.
That was because Olesen hit back from a dropped shot at the fifth with birdies at the next two, while Haig made a brilliant start to the back nine at Carnoustie to join him on 15 under.
The former Johnnie Walker Classic winner, who has battled back from a back injury that even led to him announcing his retirement from the sport last November, eagled the 12th and birdied the 10th and 14th.
Going even better at Kingsbarns was Swede Alex Noren, who had an eagle and four birdies in the first seven to move into fourth spot at 14 under.
Grace was back in firm control after he birdied the long 12th and 176-yard next.
At 20 under his advantage was back up to five over Olsen and Noren, with Haig and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee one further back.
At five under for the day Els and Harrington were up to six under and five under respectively – Els made an eagle on the 348-yard 12th, but bogeyed the next – while Kaymer’s dropped shot at the short 12th left him four under and one outside the predicted cut-off.
Grace suddenly gave the chasing pack hope when he double-bogeyed the 15th, and with Olesen grabbing birdies at the 14th and 16th, the gap was suddenly down to two.
Els, meanwhile, needed a closing birdie for a 64 at St Andrews, although it would still leave him 10 adrift.