Scotland’s Richie Ramsay has a one stroke lead over a trio of players with European Tour experience going into the final round of the Challenge of Ireland presented by Glasson.
Overnight leader Ramsay recovered after three bogeys and just one birdie in the first ten holes to pick up shots on the 13th and 17th for a level par round of 72 at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country club.
That was enough to ensure he tops the leaderboard going into the final round of a tournament for the first time as a professional but the 25 year old has the experienced trio of Richard Bland, Peter Gustafsson and Marcus Higley poised just one shot behind him.
Former Amateur World Number One Ramsay became the first Scotsman since Findlay Douglas in 1898 to win the US Amateur Championship in August 2006 and has three top 10 finishes so far on the European Challenge Tour. He said he was looking forward to testing himself against his more seasoned opponents in the final two pairings.
“It’s good to go out there knowing you are up against these good players as I love a challenge,” said the man from Aberdeen. “I’m always willing to face a challenge head on and a lot of the time I’ve been successful at it because of my decision making and playing good golf. Someone has to win the tournament and why can’t it be me but I’ve got to take one step at a time.
“I love playing under pressure. Everyone spends hours practicing for it. The US Amateur was great. There were tons of people and it was a beautiful day and I went out there and played lovely. I know that I’ve done it before there and I did it today so there’s no reason I can’t go out there and do it tomorrow.”
He added: “The tournament isn’t over but I’ll always look back on this day as the first time that I’ve been leader after the third day. I went out and played some solid golf. Okay, I missed some putts but I played really nice today. I was calm on the course and I picked my shots and I’m still leading.”
Playing partner Bland, from England, also shot a level par round of 72 to stay on seven under par but Swede Gustafsson and Englishman Higley produced masterful back nines to card six under par rounds of 66.
Gustafsson shot six birdies after the turn while Higley managed four as both players put themselves in contention. For Gustaffson in particular the birdie on the tenth which sparked his run was particularly special as he had teed off the tournament on Thursday there with a treble bogey.
Having suffered from a neck problem for the past two years, the 31 year old is eyeing a maiden victory after two second places finishes on The European Tour in 205, including an agonising one stroke defeat to Sergio Garcia at the Omega European Masters.
He said:” I made six birdies on the back nine which was good for the confidence. I’ve been working a lot this year on my neck and my swing. I had a problem with my neck for two years and then I decided also to get my fitness in order. It’s been an up and down sort of a year. Now for the first time I feel like I am swinging well.
Like Gustafsson, Higley is also trying to reclaim his card for The European Tour and knows a win would all but seal his place in the top 10 of the Challenge Tour Rankings.
He said: “I’ve finished second twice this year both in France. If I could win one it would be great as I’ve got about €50,000 and it would really help with the Order of Merit. It’s tough to tell what you’ll need but you have your own goals of what you want to get to and if I could win here it would take me to that so it would be a big step but there’s 18 holes left to play so a lot of golf.”
Ramsay’s compatriot David Drysdale is a shot further back on six under par after a 69 while another Swede, Jonas Blixt, fired the best round of his fledgling month-long professional career to surge up the leaderboard with a stunning 66.
He is joined on five under par by Colm Moriarty, the touring professional with the host club, who battled to a two over par 74 to stay in contention.
Moriarty said: “It was a difficult day but I started poorly and was three over par after five and it was always going to be a struggle to shoot a really good round from there.
“Overall I am reasonably happy because at least I didn’t shoot myself out of it and I am only going to be three shots behind going into the last day. After the start I had I have to say that I am pleased enough with the way I finished.”
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