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McDowell sitting pretty in Paris

ESPN staff
July 6, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Graeme McDowell is in the hunt in France © Getty Images
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Open de France leaderboard

Graeme McDowell holds a share of the lead going into the final round of the Open de France, as he bids for his third victory of 2013.

McDowell, winner of the RBC Heritage and Volvo World Match Play already this year, navigated Le Golf National in 70 shots on Saturday, improving him to five-under par for the tournament - a 54-hole total that was ultimately only matched by Richard Sterne.

"I played very nicely today, I really did," McDowell said. "This golf course demands fairways and greens. Shots off line here get punished heavily.

"The last four holes here are as good a risk/reward combination that you could ever imagine. Hopefully tomorrow I get the chance to close it out on one of the toughest stretches in European golf."

Sterne is in similarly good form, taking the Joburg Open at the start of the season to catapult him up the world rankings. The South African closed with two birdies in his final five holes to draw alongside McDowell, setting up an intriguing final day's play.

"This course can bite you in a lot of places," he noted. "It's probably the toughest finish on the tour.

"Guys don't keep on going low. It'll be fun playing with him [Graeme], I haven't played with him in a long time. There are a lot of guys bunched up though, someone can come from behind I suppose."

A clutch of players are in close attendance to McDowell and Sterne, with the treacherous nature of the Paris layout - water or deep rough can derail a round at any moment - meaning they all have a great chance of victory.

David Howell, Bernd Wiesberger and Richard Green are all four-under, with multiple European Tour winners Soren Kjeldsen and Simon Dyson just a shot adrift of that.

Thomas Bjorn appeared set to finish in the thick of that log jam, but a double-bogey, par, bogey finish forced him to settle for two-under and an uphill task over the remaining 18 holes.

McDowell apart, few of the big names left in the field are primed to contend. Luke Donald remains two-over after a third round 71, with world No. 5 Matt Kuchar three shots worse off after his 73.

Ian Poulter, at level-par, will perhaps fancy his chances of rustling up a challenge on Sunday - but will likely need to improve on his encouraging Saturday 69 in order to do so.

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