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Dane leads the way as Scot's Ryder Cup credentials questioned

You can't come to an event in a Ryder Cup year without some kind of fevered chatter about the transatlantic tussle.

Thomas Bjorn overcomes the trap ahead of the fourth hole at Wentworth Photograph: Getty
Thomas Bjorn overcomes the trap ahead of the fourth hole at Wentworth Photograph: Getty

Here in Virginia Water - or should that be Virginia under Water - there was plenty of time to blether as another boisterous burst of the wet stuff caused a three-hour delay to the start of yesterday's third round in the BMW PGA Championship.

Stephen Gallacher must be sick to the back teeth of being probed on the 'RC' subject as he tries to qualify for September's gathering at Gleneagles. So the last thing he probably wanted to do was comment on someone else's comments during a day that saw the great Dane, Thomas Bjorn, open up a commanding five-shot lead on a 15-under 201 after an eventful 67 that was burnished by a spectacular run of six successive birdies on the homeward stretch.

In something of a mild blast from the past, Tony Jacklin, the veteran Englishman who skippered Europe in four Ryder Cup campaigns during the 1980s, appeared to question Gallacher's mental resolve when asked to pore over potential rookies in Paul McGinley's 2014 side.

"I'm not being unkind, but Stephen looks a bit iffy sometimes, as if he's not sure," said Jacklin, who employed Gallacher's uncle, Bernard, as a vice-captain three times during his time at the European helm. "He's a bit tender-minded maybe. You've got to have that mental toughness. You've got to be able to walk through walls and be as hard as nails."

Gallacher let his clubs do the talking at Wentworth yesterday as he bounced back from a second-round 75 to shoot a purposeful four-under 68, which hoisted him on to a three-under aggregate of 213. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Jacklin.

"It's his opinion," said the 39-year-old Gallacher. "He can say what he wants. It's not going to bother me, put it that way. I've only met him once and that was about 12 years ago. The comment has come out of the left field a bit."

In the genteel world of golf, this is what constitutes a war of words. With a foot in both camps, uncle Bernard chipped in with the kind of sensitive diplomacy that would have made Kofi Annan look like a belligerent dictator.

"I think Tony is highly respectful of Stephen's game, but he obviously feels he should have a bit more confidence in himself that he can go right to the top," he said. "As everyone knows, Stephen is a very nice guy. All I think Tony is saying is 'just get a harder edge and go for it'."

Gallacher certainly gave it a go yesterday. This is only the fourth time in 15 appearances in the BMW PGA Championship that he has made the cut and the Scot aided his clamber up the standings with a run of four birdies in five holes from the fourth as he recovered from a three-putt bogey on the first.

The Scot was not the only one to get in a guddle on the opening hole. Rory McIlroy went from one bunker to the other on his way to a double-bogey six while Bjorn had to chip out sideways from the rough as he also scribbled down a six. The Dane's salvage operation was mightily impressive though.

The 43-year-old's last top-10 finish in this event was way back in 1998, but now he stands on the cusp of the biggest win of his long career. Despite leaking a further shot at the par-3 fifth in a stuttering opening, Bjorn kick-started his comeback with a gain at the next before launching his astonishing six-birdie blitz which almost became a magnificent seven when a putt of five feet on the 17th drifted narrowly by.

"You can't hole all of them," he said with a wry smile after adding another birdie on the last. Bjorn had covered the back nine in 30 blows during his course-record 62 on Thursday and he emulated that streak again yesterday as he roared home.

"I was three-over after five, but I drew a bit of inspiration from what I done on Thursday and I knew I could play that back-nine," he said. "I was proud of the way I rallied. It was a remarkable run of holes."

Luke Donald, the PGA champion in 2011 and 2012, continued to plot a tidy route around Wentworth and a neatly assembled 68, which was polished by an eagle on the fourth and a brace of birdies at 17 and 18, kept him clinging to the coat tails of Bjorn with a 10-under tally. Shane Lowry lurks in third while McIlroy, amid all the scrutiny of his personal affairs, remains in the mix in a share fourth on eight-under.

"There are a lot of ways to win, but I'll need something special," he admitted.

Francesco Molinari, the Italian Ryder Cup player who has finished ninth and seventh in his last two Wentworth outings, showed what could be achieved on a rain-softened West Course as he went on the offensive with a rampaging 65 that was illuminated by a chip-in for an eagle three on the 17th as he moved to the six-under 210 mark.

That was the same aggregate as Greenock's Chris Doak, who stayed on course for the biggest cheque of his career with a 69 that moved him into a highly lucrative position.

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