Frenchman Gregory Bourdy took advantage of his local knowledge to shoot to the top of the leaderboard with a halfway total of six under par 136 at the European Challenge Tour Grand Final at Golf du Médoc, Bordeaux – the final event of what has been a thrilling season.
Bourdy, who lives in the centre of Bordeaux and plays his golf just 15 minutes from the 6917 yard, par 71, Golf du Médoc terrain, and his Challenge Tour colleagues made sure that the lightning delayed first round was a distant memory as they produced some brilliant golf in the autumn sunshine in the South West of France.
With only one group finishing the first round on Thursday, the rest of the field – comprising the top 43 players on the Challenge Tour Rankings – had to complete their opening 18 holes before commencing round two.
Bourdy finished 68-68 for six under 138, and lies one shot ahead of Johan Edfors of Sweden (68-69) and Spaniard José Manuel Carriles (72-65) at the halfway stage.
Sebastien Fernandez from Argentina and Scotsman Euan Little are a further shot behind on four under par 138.
There are now only 36 holes to play before the final Challenge Tour Rankings are compiled – with the top 15 players awarded with places on The European Tour International Schedule 2004.
Many of the current top 15 are secure, but Carriles, Jamie Elson, Ivo Giner and Ben Mason – who are respectively placed 12th to 15th will all be wary of Cesar Monasterio and Greig Hutcheon in 16th and 17th.
Those two players are currently sitting alongside Elson and Mason on one under par at the Grand Final – with Giner only two shots behind that group – and could leapfrog their way into the final 15 with a good finish and a share of the €150,000 purse.
Richard McEvoy who is 18th on the Rankings and level par in Bordeaux and Sion Bebb – currently 20th on the Order of Merit but well placed at Golf du Médoc on two under par also cannot be ruled out of the race to graduate to The European Tour.
Bourdy, currently 36th on the Challenge Tour Rankings with €29,941, was clearly inspired by his local crowd as he took to the top of the leaderboard in Bordeaux.
“I played four holes of my first round this morning before going out for round two and I am very happy with the way I am playing because I was not so good in the weeks leading up to the Grand Final,” said the 21 year old.
“But I think having a good crowd following me helped me to play better over the past two days. I think I play better when there are people watching me, especially as this tournament is in my home town and I have played this course many times in the past.
“My mother and one of my sisters were in the crowd, plus quite a few people from my home club which is only 15 minutes from here, so that was a nice feeling to have that kind of support.
“I will have to win this week to have a chance of getting into the top 15 and even then it will be very close, but I will certainly try to do that.”
Edfors, who was playing in the second last group, still had 12 holes to play of his opening round before starting round two and hit some great form early on in the day – recording two eagles on the back nine of his first round.
His second round contained a run of three bogeys in a row, but the Swede roared back with another five birdies to contribute to his second round 69 and leave him lying in joint second position.
“I took a lot of confidence from playing my first eight holes in six under this morning,” said the fifth placed player on the Rankings. “I tired a little in the afternoon as you can see from my three bogeys but I managed to stop the rot with a birdie at the seventh and then played well from there on in to get into a good position.
“Obviously I would love to win the Challenge Tour Rankings, that is definitely my goal for the week – it would be a great way to finish the season because I have not been playing so well for the past couple of months.”
He may not have played well over the past few weeks, but Edfors’s early season form was stunning. He recorded five top ten finishes in the space of eight weeks at the start of the year, including victories in the Stanbic Zambian Open and the Fortis Bank Challenge Open.
"To be honest with you, my mind was on other things during the middle of the season because I had done so well at the start of the year,” he continued. “I’ve felt that I have done enough to secure my card for The European Tour for quite some time and therefore my concentration was more on next year than just going out and playing well on the Challenge Tour.
“But I would love to finish it all off with a victory and a first place on the Challenge Tour Rankings – that would be perfect.”