Despite a bogey at the last hole, Taco Remkes will sleep easy after a round of 65 gave the red hot Dutchman a two shot lead going into the final day of the Margara Diehl-Ako Platinum Open.
Remkes, who has finished first and fourth in his last two tournaments, compiled six birdies and an eagle at Margara Golf Club in Italy to move to 19 under par, two shots clear of Finland’s Roope Kakko.
With many of his closest rivals in the Rankings enduring difficult days, Remkes has also emerged as a live contender to claim the coveted Number One slot, and with it a place at next month’s lucrative HSBC Champions tournament on The European Tour.
But for now the man from Amsterdam is concentrating on the task in hand – namely the pursuit of a third Challenge Tour title in his rookie season.
Remkes said: “The bogey in the last was disappointing, but overall I’ve got to be pretty pleased. I struggled a bit to start with, but made good up and downs on the first two holes. From that point on I made so many chances, and whilst I didn’t take all of them, I did hole a few long putts – particularly on the back nine.
“This month I’ve played some of the best golf in my career – I’d like it to last a day longer if possible! I’ve been feeling really comfortable out on the course lately. Tomorrow’s a new day, but because I’ve been playing so well, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue. There’s no real pressure on me, because I’ve already got my card. And it helps that I’ve won twice before, so I can relax and just play my natural game.”
Kakko has also relieved some of the pressure on his shoulders, having all but secured his place at next week’s Apulia San Domenico Grand Final with successive rounds of 66, 68 and 65.
But the Finn, who chipped in at the first hole for an eagle two, would still like to claim his maiden title as a professional – his one Challenge Tour title came as an amateur, at the Volvo Finnish Open in 2004.
Kakko said: “A 52 on the final day should do it! I struck the ball better than the first two rounds today, and the putter was working well again. Hopefully that continues in the morning, because I need to keep making birdies. But whatever happens, I’m sure it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’d be nice to get my first win on the board, but more important than that I have to guarantee my place at the Grand Final. I’m nearly there, but it’s not guaranteed yet.”
In contrast Horsey is guaranteed his place next week and indeed on The European Tour next year, but would love to enter The Race to Dubai as the Challenge Tour winner.
He said: “I got off to a slow start, but sunk a 12 foot putt for eagle on the ninth hole which really got my round going. I had a disappointing bogey on the 17th, when I found the trees off the tee and then three putted, so I had to take my punishment. But other than that, I’ve got to be pretty pleased again.
“Tomorrow I’ll just have to keep playing the way I’ve been playing for the last two days – positively. May the best man win. Myself and Taco are obviously both thinking about coming top of the Rankings, so it’s going to be a big day. If I can win this week, it’d obviously give me a great advantage. But it’ll come down to the Grand Final next week – it’s been so close that it was always likely to go to the wire.”
One shot back in fourth is Wales’ Liam Bond, whose hopes of securing a place at the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final looked to have disappeared after bogeys at the sixth and seventh holes.
But he rallied with six birdies to sign for a round of 68, which left him poised to pounce on 15 under par, level with overnight leader Christian Nilsson of Sweden.
Bond said: “I hit two bad drives on seven and eight, and got punished for both. After that I realised I’d have to dig in, and that’s what I did. I recovered nicely on the back nine, but I still haven’t really holed any putts at all. Unlike Taco, who couldn’t miss. If he puts like that on The European Tour next year, he’ll win a couple of tournaments. But hopefully he’s used all his up, and it’ll be my day tomorrow. A four shot deficit isn’t that much to make up, because there are so many birdie chances out there. But my main aim is to get into the Grand Final next week – anything above that is a bonus really.”