BMW PGA Championship: Francesco Laporta leads at Wentworth as Ryder Cup tension rises

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Francesco Laporta
Leader Laporta is seeking his first title on the European Tour
-14 F Laporta (Ita) -13 L Canter (Eng) -12 J Donaldson (Wal), C Bezuidenhout (RSA), B Horschel (US), A Scott (Aus) -11 S Crocker (US), S Lowry (Ire), B Weisberger (Aut)
Selected others: -9 J Rose (Eng), T Fleetwood (Eng), A Rai (Eng) A Johnston (Eng) -5 L Westwood (Eng)

Francesco Laporta leads by one shot going into the the final round of the BMW PGA Championship as the Ryder Cup qualifying battle reaches a conclusion.

The Italian’s third round of 69 at Wentworth left him on 14 under par.

He is one clear of England’s Laurie Canter, with Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Christian Bezuidenhout, Adam Scott and Billy Horschel another stroke back.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry, in a tussle with Lee Westwood for a Ryder Cup place, is three off the lead.

Europe will seek to defend the Ryder Cup against the United States at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin from 24 to 26 September.

Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm have already booked five of the nine automatic places.

The four remaining qualifiers will be decided this week, with European captain Padraig Harrington then naming three wildcards after the tournament at Wentworth ends on Sunday.

Bernd Wiesberger’s tie for seventh meant he was on course to overtake McIlroy in the European points list, with McIlroy therefore qualifying from the world points list instead.

That would knock former Open champion Lowry out of the team, although Lowry can knock Westwood out instead with a top-eight finish or better, depending on Westwood’s result.

With Westwood in a tie for 43rd, Lowry was in the team when he played his first 14 holes in three under par, out of it when he bogeyed the 15th and then back in it with a birdie on the 18th.

But as more players finished and pushed Lowry into a three-way tie for seventh, Westwood edged back in front by just 2.34 points.

Whoever misses out on Sunday evening will join the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose in vying for one of Harrington’s three wildcards, although Rose – who is five off the lead – can still qualify automatically with a win.

“I think no matter what happens with the tournament, if I’m named on that team at half seven Sunday evening I’ll be the happiest man in Ireland going home,” said Lowry.

“I feel like I had a great chance to make the team in 2016 and threw that away. Whereas the last few months I fought as hard as I could and went out every day and tried my best and thankfully it’s been good. Who knows whether it will be good enough?”

Englishman Westwood was critical of the qualifying system after round two but is not worrying about the possibility of missing out on a record-equalling 11th appearance in the Ryder Cup.

“I care about the Ryder Cup, it would be nice to be in it. But I don’t lose sleep about golf any more,” said the 48-year-old.

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