Mark Pilkington continued to fly the Welsh flag at the top of the Kazakhstan Open leaderboard after a third round of five under par 67 gave him a one shot lead over Spain’s Alvaro Salto going into the final day at the Nurtau Golf Club.
With a top prize of €48,000 on offer and just two events remaining on the Challenge Tour Schedule, it promises to be a thrilling final round in Kazakhstan with 15 players within six shots of Pilkington.
Salto, who produced a third round 66 to move to 12 under for the tournament, will lead the chase, but given the pressure on every player chasing that huge Challenge Tour first prize, anything could happen on Sunday afternoon.
Pilkington, who is chasing his maiden Challenge Tour victory, was the first to point out that the toughest part of the final round will be keeping his mind free of any thoughts about winning until the final putt drops.
The 28 year old, currently 13th on the Rankings, led going into the last day of the Morson International Pro-Am Challenge in Manchester earlier in the season but could not finish the job. He is hoping to use the crushing disappointment he felt at the end of that final round to his advantage in Kazakhstan.
“I know how much it hurts to not have won having being in position to do so in a final round, so hopefully the memory of Manchester will spur me on tomorrow,” said Pilkington, who put together an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys en route to his third round 67.
“I just have to go out and play the course tomorrow and try not to think about how big the money is for the Challenge Tour. That will be difficult, but all the players here are in the same position so it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds.”
While Pilkington will use the disappointment of not winning in Manchester to spur him on, his old friend Salto will have the positive feelings he experienced in Milan when he won the Parco di Monza Challenge in May.
The Spaniard picked up the third Challenge Tour win of his career in Italy and he has brought his winning form to Kazakhstan this week, posting rounds of 68-70-66 to move into second place behind Pilkington.
The two men played together for the first two rounds in Kazakhstan and they will be reunited in the last match on Sunday as they go head to head for the title.
“Mark is a very nice guy,” said Salto. “I must have known him for about nine or years now from playing on the Challenge Tour so I am sure we will have a good battle between friends tomorrow – as long as I win of course!
“I will definitely be nervous tomorrow but I am playing well and putting very well this week so my game is in good shape. I am playing with more confidence and more trust in my game so now I just have to try to go and enjoy it."
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