Willett stumbles, Hend grabs lead
VIRGINIA WATER, England — A lucky bounce on No. 18 helped Scott Hend preserve the lead at the BMW PGA Championship Saturday.
There was to be no late rescue act from Danny Willett.
After a fluctuating third round that threw the European Tour’s flagship event wide open, Hend led by a shot at 9-under 207 thanks to a second straight eagle on the par-5 last hole at Wentworth. The Australian’s 8-iron approach landed in the light rough to the right of the green and kicked in, curling round to rest within three feet of the cup.
Hend made the putt for a 1-over 73 to climb back atop the leaderboard, where he started the day alongside Willett and Y.E. Yang.
“It was a nice bonus,” said Hend, who is seeking his second victory of the year. “I got a lucky bounce, but it was very nice.”
Willett, the Masters champion and the only top-20 player in the tournament, built a two-shot lead by birdieing the par-3 fifth, but his round unravelled from there. He struggled to read his putts and bogeyed five of his last 10 holes to sign for a 76, tumbling to 6 under and a tie for fifth.
“It’s disappointing to be somewhere there or thereabouts and then to play poor on the back nine,” the ninth-ranked Willett said. “Off to the range and see if we can get something going for tomorrow.”
Willett no longer leads the home challenge at Wentworth, either.
That honour goes to fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, who shot 66 — the lowest round of the day — to be within a shot of Hend on a course he knows very well. Hatton’s childhood home was 30 minutes away from Wentworth and he has been coming here since the age of 5, first with his parents as a wide-eyed spectator and now as a potential champion.
“I was in awe of the guys inside of the ropes, and for me now, playing my third BMW PGA, it’s great,” the 24-year- old Hatton said. “It just makes this tournament feel so much more special.”