By Tony Jimenez
VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - Swede Robert Karlsson, who flew home to Monaco on Friday believing he had missed the cut, fired a stunning course record 62 after rushing back in time for the PGA Championship third round.
The 2008 European number one had only three hours sleep but quickly proved he was wide awake on Saturday, racking up nine birdies in a flawless effort to establish the lowest round at the European Tour's flagship event, dating back to 1955.
"It was quite funny at breakfast because (Dane) Soren Hansen said, 'This trip has a 63 or something written all over it'," Karlsson told reporters after joining late starter Luke Donald at the top of the leaderboard on six under par.
Karlsson was livid with himself 24 hours earlier after a double-bogey seven at the 18th left him on three-over 145.
"It feels like I definitely got another chance today," said the 40-year-old. "I was sure I was out but in a situation where I just made the cut, I could just go out and play and enjoy it.
"To begin with this week, we drove all the way here from Monaco because of the volcanic ash problems. I then landed back there at 7pm yesterday and got a text message saying 'you'd better turn around'."
The Ryder Cup player had flown from Wentworth to Monaco and was within 500 yards of his home when he decided to go straight back again.
Karlsson was unable to get a direct flight and had to jet to Orly Airport in Paris before paying $11,000 to fly on to Heathrow on a private jet.
The whole journey, though, was tortuous and eventful.
"I got in the taxi at my hotel in Orly at 4.30am but the driver didn't speak one word of English and my French is not up to standard," said Karlsson.
"He was so tired, he kept falling asleep and I felt I had to talk to him to keep him awake.
"Then we were in the middle of nowhere and I didn't have a clue where we were going. We called the airport, I finally got there at a quarter to six and my flight was at six.
"I was here for 6.45 UK time (ready for an 8.55 teeoff)."
Karlsson said he briefly thought about not returning for the third round once he realized he had actually made the cut.
"It crossed my mind but I know the press in England can be quite lethal so it wasn't really an option," he said.
"It's a Ryder Cup year, I'm a Ryder Cup player, I'm on the Tournament Committee so you can't pull out of our biggest events, that's just the way it is."
Karlsson made a sizzling start on another baking hot day at Wentworth, stringing together five birdies in the opening seven holes to be out in just 30 strokes.
He kept up his flawless run on the back nine and the galleries on the 18th green gave a loud roar when he produced his ninth birdie of the day at the last.
"You can only laugh about what's happened in the last 15 hours or so," said a grinning Karlsson.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)