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Larrazabal surges three shots clear in Cologne

Spanish golfer Pablo Larrazabal plays his approach shot at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, England, on May 25, 2014

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Spanish golfer Pablo Larrazabal plays his approach shot at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, England, on May 25, 2014 (AFP Photo/Glyn Kirk)

Cologne (Germany) (AFP) - Former champion Pablo Larrazabal is looking to celebrate his 200th tournament with victory after being handed a three shot lead on day three of the rain-affected BMW International Open near Cologne.

Larrazabal, who won the event three years ago in Munich, birdied four of his closing five holes in a bogey-free 67 to move to a three shot lead on 17-under par at the Gut Larcenhof course.

However the 31-year old Barcelona golfer was just one shot ahead with a hole to play when playing partner, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina found water with his approach shot into the last walking off with a double bogey and dropped to an eight way share of second place on 14-under par.

Those also on eight under par include former BMW International winners Robert Karlsson of Sweden (68) and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark (66) along with Italy’s Francesco Molinari (65), Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson (66), the Spanish pair of Rafa Cabrera-Bello (70) and Carlos Del Moral (70) and Australia’s Richard Green (62).

Green’s effort was the lowest round of the week and also the Melbourne-born golfer’s lowest-ever European Tour round to par and included an eagle and eight birdies and with the triple Tour winner completing the back nine in just 28 strokes.

And Green was still relishing having joined fellow competitors Jamie Donaldson of Wales and countryman Wade Ormsby spending Wednesday afternoon racing rented VW Golf GTIs around the 20.8 kilometre famed Nurburgring race circuit located some 70 kilometres south of Cologne.

"The fantastic experience of racing around the Nurburgring certainly put a bit of racing fuel into the veins this week," said Green.

"Also is seems that every time I involve a little bit of motor racing with my golf, I play well and that’s been the case this week."

Larrazabal went into the third round in a four-way share of the lead on 12-under par but then was just one under through 12 holes of his third round before birding the 13th, 14th, 15th and 17th holes.

"My game wasn’t good today and I didn’t hit the driver good, and I put myself into a little bit of trouble but I knew how to handle it," he said.

"So I was lucky to make some birdies coming in.

"But I know I can play better golf but not to have a bogey in three days is good so while it was tough at the beginning of my round, it ended well for me.

"So we'll see now what happens tomorrow."

Larrazabal, who first joined the European Tour in 2008, is not only looking to celebrate a 200th event but he is also chasing a second Tour success this year after denying both Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson victory in January’s Abu Dhabi Championship.

Grillo, who is seeking a maiden Tour victory, was four under par before playing the last hole and left ruing his error.

"I had played 17 good holes and just one poor shot cost me a double bogey," he said.

"I changed putters this week and I’ve had 18 birdies already this week so I will just have to keep hitting it close to the hole and make many more birdies tomorrow."

The threat of afternoon thunderstorms has seen officials bring the final round forward to the early morning and teeing off from both the first and 10th tees.

The first group will tee off at 7am and with the final threesome of Larrazabal, Green and Molinari to tee up at 8.50am local time.

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