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Stadler closes in on French Open glory

ESPN staff
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Stadler is on course to become the first American winner in Paris since 1972 © Getty Images
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American Kevin Stadler moved one step closer to claiming his first European Tour victory in eight years and just his third career win as he extended his lead to four shots at the Alstom Open de France on Saturday.

Leading since the first round, Stadler recovered from a shaky start in difficult scoring conditions to card a one over par 72 which was enough to create daylight between him and the chasing pack.

He was steady, if unspectacular during the third round as he closes on the €500,000 winners cheque despite battling a back complaint.

"It's a little tight," He said of the injury. "It's been a little out of whack all week. Luckily didn't give me a whole lot of trouble the first couple of days, but it today it turned up a bit. I'm still able to swing so should be fine.

"I got about what I deserved out of my game today. I didn't play that great, made a whole lot of pars and did not have nearly as many looks (for birdie) as I had the last couple days, but you can't expect to play that well for four days in a row.

"I knew I really didn't have to do anything crazy today. A couple less would have been nice, but overall I'm happy the way it went."

Home favourite Victor Riu and Thongchai Jaidee are his nearest challengers on five under par but both were left to rue sloppy finishes as they encountered difficulties in the run-in.

Riu is hoping to become the first Frenchman to win the event since Thomas Levet won on home soil in 2011 but his hopes suffered a setback as he bogeyed three out of his final four holes to give Stadler considerable breathing space and a healthy margin for error.

In all, Riu carded six blemishes after the turn as the strong winds and rain showers made the Le Golf National course, which will host the 2018 Ryder Cup, difficult to negotiate. There are only 11 players under par after three rounds.

Former World No.1 and defending US Open champion Martin Kaymer moved into fourth place with Matthew Baldwin (70) and Bernd Wiesberger (71) both right behind Kaymer at two under. Defending champion Graeme McDowell is well off the pace after a disappointing 73 and is in a group of five players on one under.

Stadler won the Phoenix Open in February and is hoping to become the first American to win this tournament since Barry Jaeckel in 1972.

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