England’s Andrew Marshall will take a slender lead into the final day of the Challenge of Ireland presented by Moyvalley, but he will have home hero Jonathan Caldwell breathing down his neck.
Both men are chasing their maiden Challenge Tour titles at Moyvalley Hotel and Golf Resort in County Kildare, Ireland, where just one shot separates the pair.
Marshall’s best-of-the-day 67 moved him to eight under par, one stroke clear of Caldwell, France’s Francois Calmels and Norwegian Peter Kaensche, who lie in a tie for second place.
Marshall said: “I played pretty solidly all day. I found the rough a couple of times off the tee and got punished for it, but other than that I drove the ball really well, as I have done for most of the season really. I’ve been playing pretty consistently all year, without really setting the world alight. I’ve made every cut, but now I need to kick on and try to take it to the next level.
“I had half a chance of winning in Brittany, but threw it away a bit on the back nine on the last day. So I’m pleased to be in with another chance going into tomorrow, and hopefully I can make the most of it. We’ve got a big event next week, so it’d be nice to go there in some decent form, because I haven’t got a particularly good record in St Omer. But I’ve obviously got a big job to do here first.”
Caldwell will carry the bulk of the home support as he bids to capture his first title since joining the professional ranks late last year, when he earned his European Tour card through the Qualifying School – Final Stage.
In testing playing conditions the Ulsterman’s round rather unravelled towards the end, with three dropped shots in his last five holes.
But a nerveless putt from eight feet for bogey on the final green at least gave him some momentum to carry into the final round.
Caldwell said: “It could’ve been worse at the last, so all in all it was probably a good bogey. I played okay today, just dropped a couple of shots when it started raining, which made the course a lot tougher. Up until that point, I’d played pretty similarly to the first two days, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much about it.
“I’m playing in the second last group tomorrow, which probably works out better for me. If I can get a fast start, then I can then put a little bit of pressure on the guys ahead of me. But I’ve just got to play the course, and not worry about what everyone’s doing. Obviously I’ll keep half an eye on the leaderboard, but if you focus too much on that you can slip up. I’ve just got to stick to my gameplan and hope it’s good enough to see me through.
“Hopefully I’ll have a few people watching me, and I’ll be going all out for the win. My brother Aaron will also be willing me to win, because I’ve got him on my bag this week, and I’ve promised him a cut of any winnings. So I’m not sure who’ll be happier if I do manage to win!”
Unlike rookie Caldwell, Calmels is bidding to secure his second Challenge Tour title, having captured his first in the Telenet Trophy last month.
A round of 69 kept the Frenchman in the hunt, as did a round of 70 for Kaensche. The Norwegian had briefly surged to the top of the leaderboard with six consecutive birdies from the sixth hole, but bogeys on the 14th and 15th dropped him back to seven under par.
Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, Australian Michael Curtain and Wales’ Rhys Davies – who closed with a double bogey seven – are one shot back in a tie for fifth place.