/ Golf

Peter Uihlein three clear at Celtic Manor

Updated: Saturday, 31 Aug 2013 19:14 | Comments

Peter Uihlein will tee off in the final group on Sunday
Peter Uihlein will tee off in the final group on Sunday

American Peter Uihlein can give himself a belated birthday present worth £300,000 with a second European Tour title of the season on Sunday in the ISPS Handa Wales Open.

Uihlein, who turned 24 on Thursday, carded a third-round 67 at Celtic Manor to finish seven under par and claim a three-shot lead over French pair Thomas Levet and Gregory Bourdy.

The former world number one amateur won the Madeira Islands Open in May and has had three other top-10 finishes this season, while he also shared the halfway lead in the Irish Open before fading over the weekend.

Paul McGinley's challenge faded during the third round as the Dubliner shot a disappointing six-over 77 to drop out of the top forty.

Damien McGrane is best of the Irish on two under, sharing seventh place, while David Higgins is tied 31st on two over par. Gareth Maybin is six over going into the final day's play.

"I feel like I have been in good positions a lot this year and had some opportunities. The more I do it, the more and more comfortable I will be," Uihlein said after a round containing five birdies, three bogeys and an eagle.

"I was much better today, I was able to slow it down and be in my own element and not get ahead of myself.

"I learnt a lot from playing with Jim Furyk in the first two rounds of the US PGA Championship (where Furyk finished second). It was great to learn how he went about his business. He was never away from his plan of playing 15ft away from the flags where required, where I sometimes go flag-hunting too much.

"Today the wind was tricky but I was able to play solid and attack where I needed to. I was able to plot my way around. I am excited about tomorrow and looking forward to it."

As for his birthday, Uihlein added: "I had a lot of texts and messages. I think I might celebrate it in a couple of weeks when I get home. It was tough when it was on the first day of a tournament."

Levet matched Uihlein's 67 as he looks to improve on a dreadful season in which his best finish from 17 events is a share of 30th place.

The 44-year-old, who won the 2011 French Open but promptly broke his leg by diving into a greenside lake in celebration, said: "I've been struggling all year, that's for sure.

"I've been fighting with my game a little bit, but the scoring was never right. My performances this year, I played much better than they show. My caddie has told me to stay patient, it's going to come and it's coming this week probably.

"I'm very happy with a 67 because this course is a monster."

Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello, Holland's Joost Luiten and Sweden's Peter Hedblom were four off the lead on three under par, with Hedblom's 66 the lowest round of the day.

Hedblom, who has earned just #30,000 on the European Tour this season, played six events in 2011 before undergoing a shoulder operation and lost his card in 2012 after finishing 143rd on the Race to Dubai.

"It's been tough and maybe I came back too early," Hedblom said. "You think you won't mind missing a few cuts because you want to play, but it gets into your confidence and I never really had one good round to get some confidence back.

"I'd play six, nine or 12 holes well and then make three or four bogeys and finish one under. Today I had two three-putts in the last few holes and shot five under so it could have been even better.

"I'm not sure what the leaders will do but I don't think I will be more than five or six behind. I have not been very close the last couple of years so it's going to be a fun day tomorrow."

Surprise halfway leader Liam Bond, who is ranked 1,528th in the world and only got into the tournament at the last minute, struggled to a 78 to fall nine shots off the pace.

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