Michael Hoey and Gary Hurley will be chasing down runaway leader Alvaro Quiros in the final round of the Rocco Forte Open – Verdura, Sicily.
Quiros, 34, produced one of the recovery shots of the season at the 18th, pitching to two feet as he carded a one-under-70 in strong winds to charge into a five-stroke lead as he seeks his seventh European Tour win.
While Hoey suffered in the high winds, dropping four shots over the last six holes en route to a 75 that leaves him seven behind Quiros, he’s enjoying his golf again.
“Today 70 is a very, very good score because the wind is blowing a lot out there,” said Hoey, who double bogeyed the par-three 13th and then bogeyed the 16th and 17th.
"I played really consistently so I am very happy about that. On the holes along the sea, it affects you a little bit because the wind is very strong.
“I can take a lot of positives from today because I had a good touch and I did more or less everything well. I enjoy it a lot, It’s a very, very nice place to have a tournament here, and also to go on holiday.”
“It was going really well, level for the day, until I just got the wind wrong. It was moving around and I misjudged it on the par three 13th. I was 20 yards long in the bushes and after that it was always going to be difficult on the way in.
“It was just unfortunate to misjudge it, maybe one and a half or two clubs out but apart from that it wasn’t bad. The wind direction started south-west, then west and then north-west and I just didn’t judge it.
“I enjoyed the wind, it was just that hole that left me behind Alvaro but we go again tomorrow. I think it’s to be even windier so I’ll have to show great spirit to have any chance but I’m just enjoying playing a bit better.”
Hoey is tied for fifth, a shot better than Gary Hurley, who shares 11th, eight shots behind the leader on eight-under after a one-over 72.
Just seven players managed sub-par rounds as high winds buffeted the Verdura Resort.
Quiros, the two-shot leader at the halfway point, produced a sensational par-four at the last which provided the highlight of the day.
Having airmailed the final green by 40 yards,he ended up on a path with a leaderboard to his right, a bush to his left and a TV tower between his ball and the green.
Quiros opted against taking his nearest point of relief and struck a perfect pitch from the solid ground to two feet, capping off a perfect day and moving him a step closer to a dream return to the European Tour, having opted to dedicate himself mainly to the Challenge Tour this season after a lengthy dip in form.
South African Zander Lombard, who has been in contention numerous times already on the European Tour without yet sealing a victory, carded a one over 72 to enter the final day in outright second place.
He joins two Spaniards in the last group in Quiros and Pep Angles, who carded the round of the day – a three under 68 – and sits in a share of third place alongside home hopeful Renato Paratore on ten under par.
“Obviously I had a lot of luck at the end to end up on the car path, not in the bush behind the green. Once I was there, the lie was very clean – even if it was on a path, solid rock – but the possible relief was a little uncertain, when you drop you never know what lie you’re going to have.
“I thought, ‘hey, it’s into the wind and it could be possible to finish six or seven metres past the hole and I can two-putt for a bogey five and we move on’. Luckily enough I made a very good contact and I finished half a metre from the hole.
“Today was the worst golfing day for me, I have to say. From tee I was more irregular than normal but I played with the same intentions, trying to fight until the final hole and I’ve been putting well too.
“Today it was really difficult to putt, the wind was blowing crazy strong and on the greens the perception was always changing with the intensity of this wind. I’m happy with where I am right now.
“The most important thing from my point of view is that we have had most of the players playing in the same wind conditions, from a fairness point of view. It’s the fairest way you can have. If tomorrow we have winds like today or a little bit softer I will try my best either way and that’s the only thing that matters.
“Golf is a very difficult game, you never know what’s around the corner. As I said, I’ve been very lucky this week. If I’m not mistaken, I haven’t had a single unplayable ball and that’s a very lucky thing in these windy conditions. If my game stays more or less where it is and I keep putting like I am, I’m going to have chances up until the end.”
“I'm hitting it phenomenally. It's tough in the wind, the course really showed its teeth today but I was hitting great shots out there. The putts didn't fall but it's so difficult to putt with this wind. With the cross wind, it’s a ball off the left, you play the ball out the right and hope the wind takes it - sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.
“Putting and chipping was really tough today but I think I handled it really well. I had a stretch where I made an eagle and just three stupid drops but I'm very pleased with my round. Overall, I’m in it for the weekend, five behind.
“I'm going to go out there and try my best. I've been in a couple of final two-balls and three-balls and just didn't manage to see it through. Hopefully this time I’m in better shape mentally, the golf has been amazing so I'm ust going to go out and do my thing and see if it's good enough.”
“I am very pleased with that. It was a really tough day. It blew from 7am non-stop and it blew all day and tomorrow it’s expected to be worse. But it was a good fight out there, some nice recoveries and a couple of silly mistakes but overall I’m really pleased.
“It was a good comeback after my double-bogey at ten, it was a loss of concentration – I was standing over a par putt from about 25 feet and the wind was blowing straight into my face. My last thought was, don’t come up short, because it was blowing so hard, but I left it six feet short and missed that.
“Besides that I was able make three birdies coming home and it was one of those days that was just all about patience, you just need to keep plodding along and keep fighting.
“It was definitely like playing a different course out there. I didn’t play too well the first day but I played well the second day and it was quite easy those days. Today I was able to get some spots right and I’m happy with how I played.”
“Today 70 is a very, very good score because the wind is blowing a lot out there. I played really consistently so I am very happy about that. On the holes along the sea, it affects you a little bit because the wind is very strong.
“I can take a lot of positives from today because I had a good touch and I did more or less everything well. I enjoy it a lot, It's a very, very nice place to have a tournament here, and also to go on holiday.”
197 A Quiros (Esp) 63 64 70,
202 Z Lombard (RSA) 62 68 72,
203 P Angles (Esp) 69 66 68, R Paratore (Ita) 71 62 70,
204 R Jacquelin (Fra) 69 62 73, D Horsey (Eng) 64 66 74, J Carlsson (Swe) 67 65 72, J Lima (Por) 64 67 73, Michael Hoey (Nir) 61 68 75, L Slattery (Eng) 64 70 70,
205 G Porteous (Eng) 68 67 70, E De La Riva (Esp) 64 71 70, L Haotong (Chn) 64 68 73, H Porteous (RSA) 68 64 73, J Guerrier (Fra) 65 68 72, Gary Hurley (Irl) 67 66 72, J Kruger (RSA) 63 69 73,
206 M Foster (Eng) 67 64 75, T Lewis (Eng) 67 67 72, M Fraser (Aus) 66 66 74, S Soderberg (Swe) 61 68 77, P Maddy (Eng) 66 67 73, J Scrivener (Aus) 68 67 71,
207 A Saddier (Fra) 69 68 70, M Korhonen (Fin) 67 67 73, M Manassero (Ita) 67 67 73, J Morrison (Eng) 71 65 71, M Siem (Ger) 68 68 71, S Manley (Wal) 66 68 73,
208 E Johansen (Nor) 65 67 76, T Bjørn (Den) 65 69 74, W Ormsby (Aus) 66 66 76, M Armitage (Eng) 65 71 72, J Dantorp (Swe) 68 69 71, S Heisele (Ger) 63 69 76, D Im (USA) 66 70 72,
209 E Pepperell (Eng) 67 67 75, J Suri (USA) 75 62 72, C Paisley (Eng) 66 71 72, B Evans (Eng) 68 67 74, O Fisher (Eng) 66 69 74, A Björk (Swe) 69 66 74,
210 C Berardo (Fra) 66 71 73, N Colsaerts (Bel) 68 67 75, R Karlsson (Swe) 70 67 73, J Parry (Eng) 69 67 74, N Cullen (Aus) 66 70 74, P Khongwatmai (Tha) 66 70 74,
211 R McEvoy (Eng) 67 67 77, J Donaldson (Wal) 69 67 75, A Connelly (Can) 68 69 74, N Johansson (Swe) 66 71 74, N Kimsey (Eng) 67 69 75, J Rutherford (Eng) 69 68 74, A Dodt (Aus) 67 68 76, S Jamieson (Sco) 69 67 75, O Lengden (Swe) 68 69 74,
212 S Webster (Eng) 70 67 75, T Detry (Bel) 71 66 75, R Kakko (Fin) 68 69 75,
213 P Peterson (USA) 66 69 78, R Wattel (Fra) 66 67 80, F Laporta (Ita) 66 69 78, M Wallace (Eng) 68 69 76, M Weir (Can) 67 70 76, J Winther (Den) 68 66 79, L Gagli (Ita) 68 67 78, J Smith (Eng) 68 68 77,
214 P Tangkamolprasert (Tha) 67 68 79, R Johnson (Swe) 70 65 79,
215 O Stark (Swe) 68 67 80,
217 L Cianchetti (am) (Ita) 67 70 80.