Former Scottish International Graham Fox moved to the top of the leaderboard at Pals Golf Club in Spain after the third round of Stage Two of the European Tour Qualifying School.
The 24 year old from Ayrshire shot a third round 66, seven under par, to move to 15 under par 204 and two clear of Ireland’s Paddy Gribben.
Two birdies on the front nine got the ball rolling but Fox really made his mark over the homeward stretch, picking up birdies on the 11th and 13th, holing putts from 15 feet, and then two putting the 14th for a third birdie of the half.
Two more birdies in the last three holes took him clear of the field.
“I played really well,” said Fox. “I got to two under par at the turn and realised I was well under par for the tournament and that relaxed me.”
Fox credited his form to some hard work with Ian Rae, the Scottish National coach. Since turning professional in March Fox has competed on the MasterCard Tour and the Europro Tour, winning an event on the latter at Wild Wood GC. He just made it through Stage One, claiming the last place at The Wynyard Club and now has his sights on joining his friend Jamie Donaldson on The European Tour.
“I want to win this,” Fox added. “However it works out this has been a great experience for hopefully the finals and next year. If I don’t get through the finals I will definitely play the Challenge Tour but my main goal is The European Tour because that is where you want to be.”
Two shots adrift is Gribben following a third round of 69, four under par, with three players lying on 12 under par 207 – Francois Delamontagne of France, Scotland’s David Drysdale and Jose Manuel Lara of Spain.
Lara earned his place on The European Tour for 2001 after graduating from the Challenge Tour but suffered an injury to his right wrist midway through the season. He has received a medical exemption for the first ten tournaments of the 2002 European Tour International Schedule but is aiming to secure his card through the Qualifying School. His round of 66, seven under par, equalled the best round of the day.
At Emporda, Germany’s Marcel Siem opened up a four shot lead at the top after a third round 65 took him to a 13 under par total of 200, ahead of Sweden’s Johan Annerfelt, England’s Ben Mason and Frenchman Jean Marie Kula.
Siem, 21, was out in five under par after a run of four successive birdies from the sixth, his eight iron approach to 15 feet on the ninth setting up the last of those. His only blemish came when he three putted the 16th after rushing his 20 foot birdie putt past the hole and missing the return.
“I was very steady today,” said Siem. “The four birdies in a row certainly helped. The pins were very tough today but I putted well, much better than for the rest of the season.”
Siem has struggled with the blade all season but two months ago linked up with German coach Gunther Kessler, changed his putter and the practice is starting to pay off. Siem turned professional after the Eisenhower Trophy last year and has been honing his skills on the Challenge Tour this year, finishing the season in 79th place in the Rankings. He also played the three German events on The European Tour this year, making the cut in the Linde German Masters. Among his amateur successes was the 1999 Sherry Cup, played at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande which will be hosting the Qualifying School Finals next week along with San Roque.
“I’m looking forward to the finals,” said Siem. “I know the courses there and won at Sotogrande. I hope to get my European Tour card there.”
England’s Lee Thompson remains out in front after a third round of 67. Thompson moved to 16 under par 197, three ahead of Iceland’s Birgir Hafthorsson.
In total, 94 players from the three courses will progress to the Qualifying School Finals at The San Roque Club and Real Club de Golf, Sotogrande on November 14-19 to join the 74 players already exempt.
The qualifiers will be made up of 32 players from Emporda and 31 each from Pals and Perelada, the distinction having been made due to the greater number of players competing at Emporda (78 as opposed to 76 at both Pals and Perelada).