Wil­lett stum­bles, Hend grabs lead

SundayXtra - - GOLF - By Steve Dou­glas

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.”

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