England’s Mathew King put on an outstanding third round display at the Donnington Grove Computacenter English Challenge Open, carding a six under par 66 for a 13 under 203 to move three shots clear of Sweden’s Oskar Bergman and England’s Richard Bland and get to within 18 holes of securing a place on The 2005 European Tour International Schedule.
King, who has already earned €54,603 on this year’s Challenge Tour Rankings, can guarantee himself a place in the top 15 ahead of the Bouygues Telecom Grand Final next weekend with a solid final round showing at the Donnington Grove Country Club on Sunday.
A victory – and a winners’ cheque for €17,600 would see the 29 year old into the top three and give him the chance to push the top two of Alessandro Tadini of Italy and England’s Lee Slattery all the way in the race to become Challenge Tour champion for 2004 at the Golf du Médoc in Bordeaux next week. With a first prize of €34,250 on offer to the winner in France, it is conceivable that anyone in the field of the top 45 Ranked Challenge Tour players could make it to the top 15.
King put on a flawless display during the third round, picking up six birdies and giving nothing away as he established a three shot lead from Bergman and Bland He is now one good round away from joining the world’s top players on The European Tour.
“I played nicely today,” said King. “I think that my tee to green game was better today than it has been for the first two rounds and my short game has been good all week so it came together nicely out there.
“I am just trying to keep to the same mindset as I have been all week, and that is to play each shot as it comes and try to concentrate on doing the right things. If I can keep playing like that then hopefully I will be able to talk about securing my place in the top 15 tomorrow.
“I am getting closer to securing the Card, but I really just want to keep thinking the way that I have been all week and try to get the job done.
“It has been a good season for me in my first year on the Challenge Tour. I have been playing well since the end of July and my season has really picked up since then,” continued King, who won the Skandia PGA Open title at the end of August.
“It took me a while to get used to the Challenge Tour in terms of the travelling and playing four rounds every week instead of three. That takes a lot out of you and while it doesn’t seem like much, it makes a big difference.”
Bergman carded a third round 69 to join Bland in a tie for second, with the Englishman shooting two under 70 for a ten under par 206 total. England’s David Griffiths is three shots behind that pair, with Sweden’s Mattias Eliasson, England’s David Fisher, David Higgins of Ireland and South African Johan Kok a further shot back.
Scotland’s Graham Gordon, meanwhile, produced one of the shots of the week at the 215 yard par three 17th hole – acing a perfect two iron that landed three feet from the cup and rolled into the hole.