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Sunday, September 26, 2021

BMW PGA Championship: Francesco Laporta leads at Wentworth as Ryder Cup tension rises


BMW PGA Championship third-round leaderboard
-14 F Laporta (Ita) -13 L Canter (Eng) -12 J Donaldson (Wal), C Bezuidenhout (RSA), B Horschel (US), A Scott (Aus) -11 S Crocker (US), S Lowry (Ire), B Weisberger (Aut)
Selected others: -9 J Rose (Eng), T Fleetwood (Eng), A Rai (Eng) A Johnston (Eng) -5 L Westwood (Eng)

Francesco Laporta leads by one shot going into the the final round of the BMW PGA Championship as the Ryder Cup qualifying battle reaches a conclusion.

The Italian’s third round of 69 at Wentworth left him on 14 under par.

He’s one stroke ahead of England’s Laurie Canter, with Welshmen Jamie Donaldson, Christian Bezuidenhout, Adam Scott, and Billy Horschel trailing.

Shane Lowry of Ireland, who is vying with Lee Westwood for a Ryder Cup spot, is three strokes back.

Europe will attempt to defend the Ryder Cup against the United States from September 24 to 26 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

Five of the nine automatic places have already been reserved by Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm.

The final four qualifiers will be determined this week, with European captain Padraig Harrington naming three wildcards after the tournament at Wentworth concludes on Sunday.

Bernd Wiesberger’s tie for seventh place meant he was on track to overtake McIlroy in the European points list, forcing McIlroy to qualify from the world points list instead.

That would eliminate former Open champion Lowry from the team, though Lowry could replace Westwood with a top-eight finish or better, depending on Westwood’s result.

Lowry was in the team when he played his first 14 holes in three under par, out of it when he bogeyed the 15th, and back in it with a birdie on the 18th, with Westwood tied for 43rd.

However, as more players finished and pushed Lowry into a three-way tie for seventh, Westwood reclaimed the lead by only 2.34 points.

Whoever does not qualify on Sunday evening will join the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, and Justin Rose in vying for one of Harrington’s three wildcards, though Rose, who is five shots behind the lead, can still qualify automatically with a win.

Leader Laporta is seeking his first title on the European Tour

“I think that no matter what happens in the tournament, if I’m named on that team at half seven on Sunday evening, I’ll be the happiest man in Ireland going home,” Lowry said.

“I feel like I blew a great opportunity to make the team in 2016. Whereas in the previous few months, I fought as hard as I could, going out every day and doing my best, and thankfully, it has paid off. Who knows if it will be sufficient?”

Westwood, an Englishman, was critical of the qualifying system after round two but is unconcerned about missing out on a record-tying 11th Ryder Cup appearance.

“I’m interested in the Ryder Cup, and it would be great to be a part of it. But I don’t obsess over golf any longer “opined the 48-year-old

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