Finland were on spectacular form in the third round fourballs at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup European Qualifier shooting a error free 64 to lead by two shots going into the final day.
Playing alongside partner Mikko Korhonen, Roope Kakko produced a spectacular display of golf shooting seven birdies in the fourball better ball format at Sierra Golf and Country Club, Poland to finish day three at 20 under par.
Hot on the heels of Finland are the Canadian duo of Wes Heffernan and Graham DeLaet who shot 66 to take second place at 18 under.
Portugal’s Tiago Cruz and Ricardo Santos cemented their third place position shooting a seven under par 65 to finish the day on 14 under par, four shots behind Canada.
And with fourth placed Switzerland a distant nine shots behind, the top three who will earn a place in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China at the end of November looks virtually assured.
Finland started with two pars before a birdie blitz on holes three, five, six, ten, 11, 13, 15 and 17.
“Roope was playing on his own on the front nine”, joked Karhonen. “I eventually joined in with birdie on the tenth hole. I was happier with my game on the last eight holes and I sank a 15 metre but on the 15th hole and hit a good tee shot on the par three 16th to secure par which was important.”
“Conditions were really tough on the front nine,” said Kakko. “I thought we would be really lucky to make par on the first three holes but we managed to squeeze in one birdie. We were then down-wind for the next four holes which helped. Conditions were calmer on the back nine and we played really well. Mikko made some important shots for us on the back nine”.
Both Karhonen and Kakko played this season’s Challenge Tour event in Qingdao, China, and they are beginning allow themselves to get excited about making a return trip for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup.
“As a player, to play in an event like the World Cup is a great experience”, said Kakko. “It would be the biggest tournament I have ever played in”.
The Canadian team enjoyed a good start to their round but they just couldn’t match the Finns on the back nine.
“Graham kept us in it for the first three tough holes and birdied four,” said Wes. “It was tough out there in the wind to start with and the first three par fours actually played longer than the par five fifth. We were five under after the front nine but kind of stalled on the back.”
DeLaet added: “I had chances on the back nine but I just couldn’t get anything in the hole. Wes birdied the 13th and I made birdie on the 17th but with Finland making so many birdies on the back nine it probably felt worse than it was.
“Conditions were tough today and the course played completely differently from the first two days. Finland also played really well, they are obviously really talented players.”
When asked about their tactics for the final day foursomes, Heffernan commented: “We are going to go out tomorrow and try and win this. We get to play with Finland tomorrow which helps as we can see what they are up to.”
With their place in China looking secure, the Canadian team shared their thoughts on how it feels to represent their country. “You feel proud to represent your country in whatever you do”, said DeLaet. “I have played for Canada as an amateur and it is an honour to have the chance to do it again here and hopefully in China.”
Heffernan echoed his partners feelings “As a golfer, you don’t have a chance to represent your country very often. The World Cup is one of the few opportunities you have as a professional. Canada is also such a hockey nation that it is cool to have the chance to play for Canada in golf.”
Portugal were pleased with their performance dovetailing beautifully to card a bogey free 65 that included seven birdies. Santos, who scored four of the seven, said: “Our combination was perfect today. Whenever I missed Tiago made the shot and whenever Tiago missed, I made it. Tiago played really well today”.
Looking forward to the final day’s foursomes, Cruz shared the team’s thoughts on tactics. “Tomorrow will be a tough day if the wind is as strong as it is today. It will be difficult to play the alternate shot format but we are feeling good and we will play the best we can. We are very happy to be in the position we are in and we are proud to have the opportunity to play for Portugal and try to qualify for the World Cup.”
Poland saved their best ‘til last with a birdie, eagle, birdie finish to their fourball round. Jakub Ossowski birdied sixteen and seventeen and Marcin Stemasiak brought them home with a three on the 18th. The Polish team where three under for the day and finished three over for the tournament.
The Scores – after round 3
196 – Finland (Roope KAKKO / Mikko KORHONEN)
198 - Canada (Graham DELAET / Wes HEFFERNAN)
202 – Portugal (Tiago CRUZ / Ricardo SANTOS)
211 – Switzerland (André BOSSERT / Martin ROMINGER)
215 – Czech Republic (Jakub KUCERA / Ondrej LEBL), Norway (Paul NILBRINK / Kristoffer REE)
216 – Belgium (Gerald GRESSE / Laurent RICHARD), Iceland (Heidar BRAGASON / Bjorgvin SIGURBERGSSON),
219 – Poland (Jakub OSSOWSKI / Marcin STELMASIAK)
221 – Israel (Itamar COHEN / Oren GERI)
229 – Greece (George DIAKOU / Themis GINIS)
231 – Slovenia (Janez GRILC / Damjan MURGELJ)
238 – Croatia (Darko LJUBANOVIC / Miro RAIC)
Note: Fourball used in first and third roundsa, Foursomes (alternate shot) used in the Second and final founds.