Johan Edfors took control of the European Challenge Tour Grand Final with a scintillating third round 66 to establish a four shot lead on ten under par 203 and put himself in prime position to win both the tournament and the Challenge Tour Rankings at Golf du Médoc, Bordeaux.
The Swede is currently fifth on the Rankings with €77,409 and will become the Challenge Tour Champion for 2003 if he can hold onto his first place and take the €25,600 top prize, with José Manuel Carriles his closest rival on six under par.
That would put Edfors – who won the Stanbic Zambian Open and the Fortis Bank Challenge Open in the opening weeks of the Challenge Tour season – ahead of the current top four players, Martin LeMesurier, Martin Wiegele, Peter Hanson and Scott Drummond.
He played some exquisite golf for his first 13 holes, going to the turn in four under 31 and then picking up birdies at the 11th and 12th before losing his momentum on the par five 14th.
“I made what turned out to be a great par at the 14th,” said Edfors after signing for his 66. “I was going for the green in two and ended up putting two balls in the hazard near the green.
“I didn’t even know the hazard was there, but I took a drop and made a great up and down to save my par, but I would have to say that it knocked me out of my rhythm and I got really tired after that.
“But I’m really happy with the way I played and I have a lot of confidence going into the last round knowing that I have a nice four shot cushion and that the guys behind me will have to play very well to catch me.
He continued: “To win the Rankings has been my goal all season – especially since my great start to the year. I said yesterday that I struggled a bit during the middle of the season but I have started to play well again. I haven’t really changed anything in my game – it was more a case of me fixing what was going on in my head and I have done that now!”
Jamie Elson, currently 14th on the Rankings, fired a four under 67 in round three to lie in third place. The 22 year old Englishman now has his fate in his own hands with regard to maintaining his place in the top 15 and securing a place on The European Tour International Schedule 2004.
That is exactly how Elson wants it to be and he is sure he can hold on and emulate his father, Pip, by playing on The European Tour. Elson has had an amazing five months since turning professional in June and winning his first tournament at the Volvo Finnish Open in only his third Challenge Tour start.
“I said to myself last night that if I can have a good round today then I would be almost there and I managed to do that today. I just need a good round tomorrow to secure my card for next year.
“If I can make a quick start tomorrow and settle down quickly then I will be alright because my form has come back in the last week and I am playing with a lot more confidence now.”
Carriles is one place ahead of Elson on the money list and will also be safe in the top 15 if he can hold onto his impressive form that saw him shoot rounds of 72-65-70 to take second place.
There is a three way tie for fourth place between Argentinian Sebastian Fernandez (71), Irishman Damien McGrane (68), and Frenchman Marc Pendaries (68).
The majority of the Challenge Tour top 15 have secured their places on The European Tour next year, but there will be serious pressure on Ivo Giner and Ben Mason who occupy positions 14 and 15 on the Rankings, and are currently three over and one under respectively going into the final round – with 16th and 17th placed Cesar Monasterio (level par) and Greig Hutcheon (one under) hoping to take advantage of any last day slip ups.
For Mason, who is just under €4000 behind Giner, it will be an especially nervewracking day, but the 26 year old believes he will thrive under the pressure.
“I felt the pressure out there a bit today,” said Mason, “but I enjoyed it at the same time. It can get a bit boring with nothing to play for, and because I’m playing alongside Greig Hutcheon I’ll be able to keep an eye on what he’s doing so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”