Gary Boyd maintained his stranglehold on the Challenge Tour’s Tusker Kenya Open and revealed victory, plus a Manchester United triumph in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Everton, would give him the ultimate weekend sporting high.
Saturday is traditionally known as ‘Moving Day’ in golfing parlance but the exact opposite was the case at the Muthaiga Golf Club in Nairobi amongst the main protagonists as 22 year old Old Trafford fanatic began the day with a five shot lead and ended it in exactly the same position.
A rollercoaster round of level par 71 gave the Englishman an 11 under par aggregate of 202 with his nearest challenger – in the second event of the 2009 Challenge Tour season – being his fellow countryman Andrew Butterfield, who posted a one under par 70 for 207.
Three players – South Africa’s David Hewan, France’s Victor Riu and Carl Suneson of Spain – shared third on five under par 208, but the day, as the majority of the week has been, belonged to Boyd.
“This is my first Challenge Tour event of the season and it would be superb to get off to the best possible start with a victory,” he said. “I plan to play as much as possible on the Challenge Tour this year and try to graduate to The European Tour that way.
“I got off to a good start in my first year on the Challenge Tour last year but I couldn’t capitalise on it. Maybe I lost a bit of confidence along the way but it felt like I had to take almost a step back to take a step forward. But now I feel I’m definitely moving in the right direction.”
Three putt bogeys at the second and third holes were eased by a good spell around the turn where he birdied three holes out of five from the seventh and although he dropped another shot at the 15th, he finished in style, getting up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the par five 18th.
Should he continue in a similar vein, he will be a difficult man for the rest of the field to catch and Boyd admitted he had already dreamt about how he would like to spend Sunday night.
“I’ve had a look at the timings and because we’re two hours ahead of the UK here in Kenya, the United semi will kick-off at 6pm our time,” he said. “It would be lovely to sit down with a beer in my hand to watch that with the Kenya Open trophy beside me.
“However, I won’t be taking anything for granted. There are still 18 holes to go and anything can happen out here especially if the conditions are the same as today because the blustery wind made it quite tricky at times. But I will be giving it my best shot.”
Over the winter, Boyd spent some time working with his good friend Ian Poulter in America and with the European Ryder Cup star being a fervent Arsenal supporter, Boyd admitted there would be a good deal of banter flying back and forth between the pair over the next couple of days with Arsenal facing Chelsea in the other FA Cup semi-final.
“You never know, if we both make it through, maybe Ian will treat me to a ticket for the final at Wembley,” he said.
Second placed Butterfield had a chance to make the gap a little smaller going into the final round but the 36 year old Londoner’s challenge came a little unstuck towards the end of his third round.
Butterfield, who graduated to The European Tour through the Challenge Tour in 2005 but who lost his card the following year, dropped shot at both the 16th and 17th but, like Boyd, he birdied the last to give himself a glimmer of hope for the final day.
Further down the leaderboard, England’s Lee James, a former winner of the event, shared sixth place with Trevor Fisher of South Africa, but it was a day to forget for Argentina’s Alan Wagner, the current leader of the Challenge Tour Ranking, who slipped from seventh to a tie for 39th on two over par 215 after a third round 77.