An astonishing round of 61 saw John Morgan’s status upgraded from also-ran to joint tournament leader with compatriot Richard Bland on day three of the Apulia San Domenico Grand Final.
Morgan, who began the day in a tie for 18th place, reached the turn in just 28 shots after notching six birdies in nine holes at the picturesque San Domenico Golf Resort in Puglia, Italy.
Four more birdies on the back nine moved the 30 year old – currently ranked 27th – to 13 under par, level with Bland, who came home in 32 for a round of 67.
Morgan’s round, his lowest in tournament golf, also broke the course record and put him within sight of a place in the money-spinning Race to Dubai.
He said: “I just had to get myself back in the game, and I think I’ve done that. It was a crazy round of golf. I missed four putts from around eight feet, so a 59 was definitely there for the taking. You’re not going to believe this, but I had 59 in my head from about the sixth or seventh hole. I just felt it was going to be my day.
“To make ten birdies is pretty special, but to not make any bogeys was just as important. The only time I was in trouble was when I missed the green on the 15th hole, but I sunk a cracker of a putt to save par. Then on the next hole I sunk another 15 foot putt for birdie, and I just had to laugh.
“It’s a funny old game. I shot 73 yesterday, and then go and better it by 12 shots today. If I can finish it off tomorrow and get my European Tour card, I’ll be the happiest man alive and my family can enjoy a great Christmas. If I don’t, Christmas is cancelled this year!”
Morgan will play in the final group with Bland, whose chances seemed to be slipping away until a birdie at the 11th hole sparked a scoring spree which culminated in an eagle on the 17th.
The 35 year old, whose has wife Caroline as his caddy for the first time this week, will now seek his second victory after claiming his maiden title at the Challenge Tour Grand Final in 2001.
He said: “I think I’m one over on the front nine and 14 under coming home, so I may just ask if I can start on the tenth tee and just play the back nine twice tomorrow! I wasn’t really hitting it well enough on the front nine which was frustrating, but then I made a good birdie on the 11th and saved par from about seven feet on 12th. After that, I never really looked back.
“Hopefully I can finish it off tomorrow, because I should’ve won at least once this season. Maybe I’ve put too much pressure on myself instead of relaxing and letting it happen. So I’m going to try to not think about it too much, which is easier said than done. But it helps that I’ve got my wife here with me this week to take my mind off things, because we’ve not talked about golf once. If I was staying in the players’ hotel all the talk would probably be about who’s doing what and where people might finish in the Rankings, so I’m better off out of it!”
Scotland’s Andrew McArthur is one shot back on 12 under par, alongside Argentina’s Estanisloa Goya and Brazilian Alexandre Rocha.
A final hole bogey left a somewhat sour taste in McArthur’s mouth, but the Scot was still content with a round of 69 which gave him a battling chance of a securing his first European Tour card.
He said: “If you’d me given this position going into the final round at the start of the week, I would’ve been more than happy with that. I’ve always wanted to play on The European Tour – I’ve been trying for the past two years, so hopefully it’s a case of third time lucky.”
Goya’s prospects of joining his friend and compatriot Rafa Echenique at the elite level appeared sound, after the youngster closed with three consecutive birdies to sign for a flawless round of 65.
Fellow South American Rocha was unable to reproduce the fireworks of the previous day, but a round of 68 kept him in the hunt to claim his maiden title and so guarantee a return to The European Tour.
The picture of who might graduate as the winner of the Challenge Tour also became a little clearer, as a round of 68 enabled current Number One David Horsey of England opened up a three-shot cushion over his nearest rivals in the Rankings.
His compatriot Gary Lockerbie and Taco Remkes of The Netherlands, third and second respectively, are in a tie for 17th on six under par, and so both need big final day performances if they are to overhaul Horsey and claim a place at next month’s HSBC Champions on The European Tour.
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