It was another day of tough conditions at the European Challenge Tour’s Thomas Björn Open presented by Multidata, and another day when Finland’s Toni Karjalainen topped the end of play leaderboard as more swirling, gusting winds battered the Esbjerg Golfklub on Denmark’s west coast.
Karjalainen held onto his three stroke lead going into the final round after a three over par 74 saw him fall back to level par 213, with England’s Jamie Elson his closest pursuer after a fine level par 71 took the 2003 Volvo Finnish Open champion to three over par and into contention for the second Challenge Tour title of his career.
The Argentine duo of Ariel Canete and Daniel Vancsik share third place on four over par after respective third round scores of 75 and 74, with the English trio of Lewis Atkinson, Benn Barham and Matthew Morris joining Denmark’s Jeppe Huldahl and Carl Suneson of Spain in a tie for fifth place on six over par 219.
After a solid par on the first hole, Karjalainen came off the rails on the front nine as he racked up five bogeys and a birdie between the second and seventh, but he steadied himself well and got back into the form that has seen him lead the tournament from day one with ten pars and birdie during the remainder of his third round to ensure that he would hold onto that three shot lead going into the final round.
“The front nine was really tough today,” said Karjalainen. “I started with a really solid par but then the next five holes were tough and I dropped a few shots, but I said to myself that that was my bad holes out of the way and that everyone is going to make bogeys today. You have to thinbki like that because if you don’t then all sorts of things can come into your head and that’s when you start to doubt yourself.
“I just put the bad holes behind me and told myself to take care of business for the rest of the round and I pretty much managed to do that.
“To win here tomorrow would change my season around and stop me sitting on my bags waiting for phone calls every week! I am in category 11 of the Challenge Tour just now which means that I have limited opportunities to play and I usually have to wait on a phone call every week to see if I can get into the tournaments or not.
“The only way to get yourself out of that situation is to win a tournament and that is exactly what my goal is.”
Elson’s third round was similar to that off Karjalainen in the sense that he struggled on the front nine with a double bogey and two single bogeys, but he managed to rescue two birdies on the way to the turn to go out in two over par 37 before heading bacfk to the clubhouse in two under 34 that included an excellent chip-in birdie on the par three 18th to move into second place.
“It was just brutal at points out there today,” said Elson. “The opening holes here are just so difficult and it got to the stage where you were accepting a bogey. You are just trying to stay away from double bogeys to keep things going. I doubled the seventh to go to three over but then made a good putt on the ninth for birdie and that gave me a bit of encouragement to keep going.
“I managed to pick up another shot on the 16th after a good third shot and then the chip in on the last was a bit lucky because I think the ball was going about ten feet past. But you take those little bits of luck on a day like today because it is just such battle.
“It’s good to be back in contention but to be honest it doesn’t feel like it with the way the conditions are. You are not aware of anyone in the field apart from your self when you the weather is like that. It is just such a grind and I expect it to be the same tomorrow really. I’m just going to go out there and keep swinging aggressively and see what happens because the moment you start to doubt your swing in these conditions then you may as well walk in!”