Otto takes charge in Italian Open

Last updated at 16:37 10 May 2008


Less than two months after losing a five-stroke lead on the final day in

Madeira, South African Hennie Otto has another great chance to win his first

European Tour title tomorrow.

A third round 63 at the Italian Open in Milan brought the 31-year-old, who once

snapped his clubs in half and threw them into a river after scoring 80, from two

behind to four ahead.

Otto, not even a full member of the Tour at the moment, is on the 22 under par

total of 194. In relation to par that score has only been bettered by one shot -

by Ernie Els and David Howell - in the history of the circuit.

Ryder Cup Swede Robert Karlsson was the man who had led at halfway following a

course record 61, but he managed "only" a 69 on the low-scoring Castello di

Tolcinasco lay-out.

And that dropped the tournament's highest-ranked player - he stands 48th in the

world to Otto's 154th - into a tie for second on 18 under with compatriot

Christian Nilsson and Spain's Alvaro Velasco. They are ranked 651st and 388th

respectively.

Otto even fell further behind when Karlsson set off again with an eagle. But

bogeys on the next two holes for the seven-time Tour winner were a sign that he

was not firing on all cylinders like the day before.

After four birdies and a bogey in his first five holes, Otto then had four more

around the turn before finishing with three more - the last of them from 25 feet

- for an inward 30.

England's Ross McGowan and Phillip Archer are tied for fifth, while fellow

countryman Oliver Wilson, who played nine holes of his second round using a

wedge on the greens after damaging his putter, is joint seventh with Frenchman

Gregory Havret.

Paul Broadhurst, playing his 500th European Tour event, is in joint 13th after

a 67, but the former Ryder Cup star, who made his debut as an amateur 20 years

ago, was left to rue a closing bogey.

"My neighbour out in the States is always talking about my stats and any time

I'm heading towards a bogey-free round I start thinking about it," he said.

"I just wish I could play the last few holes better because I'm playing the

hard ones really well."

Nick Dougherty, who flew to the event after attending his mother's funeral on

Tuesday, had a 67 for 12 under and, having played with Karlsson when he shot 61,

was not giving up the title chase.

"Robert played awesome, but showed it was feasible," said the 25-year-old

from Liverpool, who had no fewer than nine birdies, but also a double bogey on

the seventh and two bogeys.

"All things considered this week I think I'm doing well. It's been a week of

mistakes, but that's acceptable in the circumstances."

American John Daly returned a 68, but that was after making the halfway cut

with nothing to spare and at eight under he was down in 46th spot.

Otto, who did not know until a week ago whether he would have a place in the

event, said: "This course gives you birdies and the less mistakes you make, you

will be up there.

"I just didn't make any putts in Madeira, but I hit it closer today and made a

few. I was going home after this week, but a top-10 here will get me into the

Irish Open."

A win, of course, would make him exempt for the next two years, and he added:

"My biggest goal is to get my card back."

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