Andy Sullivan opens up five-shot lead at English Championship
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 09/08/20 6:43pm
Andy Sullivan moved closer to ending his five-year wait for a fourth European Tour title as he opened up a five-shot lead at the English Championship.
Sullivan led by one overnight and began his third round with an eagle-two, made another eagle at the ninth, and three birdies over the last five holes added up to a 64 which swept him to 21 under par on another day conducive to low scoring at Hanbury Manor.
The 33-year-old powered into a commanding lead over Steven Brown, who fired his second 66 of the tournament, but Andrew "Beef" Johnston endured a frustrating third day and slipped 10 shots off the pace after he bogeyed three of the last four holes to return a level-par 71.
But there were no such problems for Sullivan, who has not lifted any silverware since winning three titles in the 2015 season and then pushing Rory McIlroy to the wire in a titanic Race to Dubai shootout.
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As well as his two eagles on the front nine, Sullivan also birdied the second while dropping only his fourth shot of the week at the fourth, and his fourth birdie of the inward half at the 17th ensured he had birdied every hole on the back nine over the first three rounds.
"I was just trying to focus on a shot at a time," he told Sky Sports Golf. "I know it's a bit of a cliche, but I'm really trying to control what I could do out there. I was swinging it well and just trying to give myself as many chances as possible. As I was swinging it well a lot of shots came off and I gave myself a lot of chances. It was good fun out there.
"Four under for the front nine the way the week has been going was pretty normal. Everyone has been going pretty low. It's a golf course where you can't rest on your laurels. You've still got to go after it and try to make birdies but also be sensible.
"I didn't realise I was five in front until I was coming up the last. I was just trying to make as many birdies as possible to be honest without forcing a mistake, like my three-putt on 13. Just trying to control my situation and keep hitting the good golf shots that I have been hitting all week.
"My strategy will be the same tomorrow, I can't control anyone that is going to come up behind me. This golf course does offer a lot of birdies so I'm sure at some point someone is going to have a run at me. All I can do is control what I can do and see where we are at the end of it."
Brown emerged as Sullivan's closest challenger after he handed in a six-birdied card with just one blemish at the 17th, while South African pair Dean Burmester (69) and Brandon Stone (67) are a shot further behind along with Spain's Adrian Otaegui (67).
"When I started today I was hitting it really nicely but missed a few short putts," said Brown. "A few five-footers in the first few holes and I just thought it was going to be one of those days, but I hung in there and holed a couple on the back nine which kept me in it."
Johnston had been just three behind Sullivan at the halfway stage and made a sound start with birdies at the second and seventh, but bogeys at 15, 17 and 18 saw him plummet 16 places down the leaderboard and into a share of 20th.