TURIN, Italy – Hennie Otto of South Africa shot a 1-under 71 on Saturday to take a two-stroke lead into the final round of the Italian Open, where Stephen Gallacher’s late bid to qualify for the Ryder Cup will go down to the wire.
Otto, who won this event in 2008, began the day with a three-shot lead but struggled at times, carding two bogeys and a double bogey as well as five birdies.
It is only the 38-year-old’s Otto’s second tournament since his recovery from two back operations.
“It was a rough day to be honest,” Otto said. “My back started to tighten after eight holes but I managed to get it round even though I couldn’t swing it properly. I got a little lucky at times as well but you need that in this game if you are going to win a tournament.”
Gallacher produced four birdies and one bogey in a round of 69 to move to within six shots of the lead and four behind compatriot Richie Ramsay (66) in second place.
Gallacher is the only man still capable of moving into the automatic Ryder Cup places in the final qualifying event, with a top-two finish enough to dislodge former U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell from Europe’s team.
“It keeps me in touching distance,” Gallacher said. “The worst thing I could have done was open up a big gap which was insurmountable. I’ve not done that so a good day on Sunday and I am still right in there. I had about four lip-outs today but they went in on Friday and I holed a couple of good putts at the end so it evens itself out.
“It’s all to play for. You never know what happens in this game and guys have won from further back than this. I’ll just go out and try and get as many birdies as possible and see what happens. This is the only time in my career that I would be happy not to win a golf tournament. Second will do me fine on Sunday.”
Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger slipped to third after following consecutive rounds of 66 with a 71. Lee Slattery and Ross Fisher were fourth, five shots behind Otto.