South Africa’s Michael Kirk fired a third round of five under par 67 at the European Challenge Tour’s Open de Toulouse to take a one shot lead from a six strong chasing pack at the Golf de Toulouse-Palmola.
Kirk recaptured the spark that took him to the Stanbic Zambia Open title earlier in the 2004 season with seven birdies and two bogeys to lead Frenchman Gregory Bourdy, Marc Cayeux of Zimbabwe, Spain’s Carlos de Corral, Scotland’s David Drysdale, Fredrik Henge of Sweden and Jeppe Huldahl of Denmark.
Bourdy matched Kirk’s 67 to join the group of players in second place on eight under par 208, while Cayeux – still suffering from flu – put together a level par 72. De Corral, the second round leader, struggled to a two over 74 while Drysdale kept things consistent with his second consecutive 69.
Henge consolidated his opening pair of 68s with a third round 72, and Huldahl – who was playing alongside Kirk – posted a four under 68.
Kirk can rejoin the Challenge Tour’s top 15 by scoring victory in France. The 27 year old is currently 26th having won €32,071 and the €17,600 top prize on offer in Toulouse would take Kirk towards the top ten with just three events remaining on the 2004 Schedule.
Of the six men in pursuit of Kirk, Cayeux and Henge have both scored Challenge Tour wins this season and sit above the South African on the Rankings, respectively positioned in ninth and 13th places. Victory in Toulouse would almost guarantee a 2005 European Tour Card for the Cayeux, who won the 2004 Kenya Open, or Henge, who captured the JJB North West Challenge.
Meanwhile, Bourdy, de Corral, Drysdale and Huldahl are all looking to climb their way up the Rankings and secure a place in the top 45 in order to guarantee a place at the Bouygues Telecom Grand Final in four weeks time.
Likewise the players on seven and six under (Spain’s Gabriel Canizares, Cedric Menut of France, England’s Lee Slattery and Marco Soffietti of Italy) on the Open de Toulouse leaderboard, who are all capable of catching Kirk during what is sure to be a thrilling final round.