Day 3 at Carton House Golf Club is in the books, and Joost Luiten leads a group of contenders that does not include Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell or Padraig Harrington at the 2013 Irish Open.
Luiten shot a six-under 66 to take the outright lead at 13-under on Saturday in Ireland and was matched only by Pablo Larrazabal's identical score. The pair will play together in the final round on Sunday with just one stroke separating them. Golf Ireland on Twitter is ready for the pairing:
Golf Ireland also had this tweet from early in Round 3, a nice segway into the idea that all players in the field on Sunday will be chasing the trophy:
Behind the top-two finishers, Robert Rock struggled to the tune of a one-under 71 to move into third position, while Paul Casey, Jose Maria Olazabal and Peter Lawrie all remain within striking distance on the final afternoon from Carton House.
Jamie Donaldson, the defending champion of the event, sits six strokes off the pace at seven-under, while 2006 Irish Open champion (at Carton House) Thomas Bjorn joins him at 12th on the leaderboard.
Here's a look at how the leaderboard stands after three days of action:
|T6||Jose Maria Olazabal||68||69||71||-8
*For a complete look at the Day 3 leaderboard check out EuropeanTour.com.
The big story on the afternoon was Luiten, a man who won the Lyoness Open in early June and has two other top-10 finishes on his resume during the 2013 European Tour season.
As you can see in this tweet from Golf Ireland, Luiten was clicking on all cylinders for most of the round. He almost found the bottom of the cup from the rough on No. 11:
Luiten played bogey-free golf en route to his six-birdie, 66 afternoon, and he'll headline the final pairing with the other man who matched his outstanding Day 3 score.
Pablo Larrazabal also had a clean sheet on Saturday, birdieing four of his first nine holes and hitting 15 greens in regulation en route to his six-under afternoon.
Rock had a share of the lead on Friday, as he and Peter Uihlein were the leaderboard heroes at nine-under heading into the weekend. The Englishman was one of many who would stay in the fray but not do enough to stay at the top of the board, bogeying two of his final eight holes.
While he did take down Tiger Woods and McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last year, he's only finished in the top 10 once on the European Tour this season. Sitting alone in third place, he'll need to mirror his first two rounds and avoid his third to stay in the mix and avoid dropping out of the top 10 on Sunday.
Now that Day 3 is officially in the books, we can take a look at some of the major storylines to follow from Saturday's action and have a brief look ahead to the final round on Sunday.
*For a complete look at the highlights from Saturday at Carton House, click here (via EuropeanTour.com).
Shane Lowry and Peter Lawrie hold the hopes of Ireland on their shoulders in the final round, but both have a long road to climb if they are going to make it back to the top of the board for Sunday's trophy presentation.
Lowry was the winner of the Irish Open back in 2009 at County Louth. But as noted by EuropeanTour.com earlier in the week, he has a special tie to Carton House because it's his "home" course when he's not on the road and entering events.
Lowry was in the mix after two solid days (67, 70) of staying under par, but a two-over 74 on Saturday might have left any hopes of his title chances for the next time he shoots a practice round at Carton House.
On the flip side, countryman Peter Lawrie is slightly better off than his Irish opponent, shooting a five-under 67 on Saturday to move to six-under for the tournament.
Though that road is also steep, Lawrie was firing on all cylinders and was two bad holes (10, 11) away from having the lowest score of the afternoon. He had seven birdies and was remarkable on his final seven holes, finding the cup early on four of his final seven chances to do so.
Hopes are distant for Ireland to capture this trophy with a man made from its cloth, but it's still too early to discount either of these Irish stars from making a late run at the Open on Sunday.
Who Needs Stars?
Speaking of stars, this tournament is supposedly without them for the final two days of action. McIlroy went home early (a common theme in his 2013 season so far), and McDowell and Harrington joined him in the gallery for the weekend.
But when you look at the field, there's plenty of intrigue with respect to those vying for the title.
Does McIlroy, Harrington and McDowell's absence stop you from watching the weekend at Carton House?
As noted by EuropeanTour.com on their tournament leaderboard (check out the link above), the stats from those who made the cut on Friday lend a hand to the idea that there's good golf to be played on Sunday.
There are 40 European Tour winners in that mix, with a total of 139 titles between those winners, eight winners of a Race to Dubai event and six members of a Ryder Cup team.
Like I said, who needs stars?
Luiten is anchoring the leaderboard with strong play, and there are others behind him making sure this will be a strong finish at Carton House on Sunday. Among those behind Luiten is Paul Casey, a man who you should watch on Sunday.
Watch out for Paul Casey
Paul Casey has been largely disappointing as a contender on the European Tour this year. A tied-for-eighth finish at the Volvo China Open is his lone venture into the top 10 this year.
He made the cut at the 2013 U.S. Open but proceeded to finish tied for 45th and moved further down the board at the BMW Open last week.
Sky Sports' Rob Lee listed him as a man to watch at the Open this year, though, and he has not disappointed so far:
Casey is back with three quality rounds of golf so far at the 2013 Irish Open, including a five-under mark on Saturday that puts him tied with Scott Henry for fourth place on the leaderboard.
As noted by the European Tour on Twitter, Casey has been inspired watching fellow Europeans take golf by storm over the past few weeks:
Casey inspired by Rose success - Paul Casey says watching Justin Rose win the US Open has inspired him to believe ... http://t.co/7uqT2iYAEP— European Tour (@EuroTourNews) June 27, 2013
He shot a 68 on Thursday, even par on Friday and a strong 67 on Saturday to complete his scorecard so far and sit just four strokes behind Luiten heading into his final pairing.
Nike Golf Europe tweeted about Casey earlier in the week, and his quote about what it takes to succeed at the Irish Open and Carton House has rang true so far:
Casey has shown patience and survived a tough round on Friday to swing back into the mix following Round 3. He's a player to watch on Sunday and has been particularly good in tough situations—he saved all three shots from the sand and 5-of-6 scrambles on Saturday.
We're preparing for a stellar round of golf during the final day Maynooth, and Casey might be the guy to bring it home when the last shot has dropped at Carlon House.
Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.