Germany’s Florian Fritsch will attempt to become only the third player to lift a Challenge Tour title on his professional debut when he takes a two-shot lead into the final day of the ALLIANZ Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne.
Fritsch has played two Challenge Tour events as an amateur but his appearance at Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André in Brittany, France, is his first since joining the professional ranks last year.
The 23 year old from Munich will now attempt to follow in the illustrious footsteps of his compatriot Martin Kaymer, who became the first player to win on his professional debut in the 2006 Vodafone Challenge, and Italy’s Edoardo Molinari, who repeated the feat in the Club Colombia Masters in 2007.
A round of 66 moved Fritsch to six under par, two shots clear of home favourite Julien Guerrier, England’s Lee S James and Sweden’s Joel Sjoholm, who posted the joint lowest round of the day.
Fritsch, who has spent the last few years playing on the college circuit in America, continued the fine form which saw him capture his first EPD Tour title last week.
After posting four birdies and an eagle on another blustery day in Brittany, Fritsch is now in sight of a place in the history books.
He said: “Today I was just able to keep it in play, which is the most important thing in the wind. I didn’t hit it anywhere I shouldn’t have done, and my putter was also good to me. I made two ten foot putts for par and also rolled in a few for birdie. Other than that I was just pretty solid, and kept the mistakes to a minimum. A prime example is the 10th, which I parred today after my double bogey in the second round. I laid up with an iron on the first day, but then yesterday I got a bit greedy and got my three wood out. I ended up pulling it into the rubbish on the left hand side, and paid the price. Today I stuck to my game plan, so I was pretty proud of myself.
“It’s so important to cut out the mistakes round here, and that’s my attitude towards golf in general. I’ve heard Major winners asked so many times how many great shots they’ve hit, and often they struggle to remember any – they just didn’t hit any bad ones. For me, that’s what golf’s about. Your round is only as good as your worst shot, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll stay consistent.
“It’ll be a fairly new experience for me to play in the final group, but it’s something I’m looking forward to. It should be a lot of fun. Obviously I played in the last group on the final day of the EPD event I won last week, but if I’m being honest I probably didn’t expect to find myself in the same situation so soon. So it’s a bit of a surprise in a way, because obviously it’s a step up on the Challenge Tour. But in some ways it’s not a surprise, because I knew my game was in good shape coming into the week. I’m not sure how I’ll react, although I’m sure the adrenaline will be pumping. We’ll find out more tomorrow!”
In contrast, former Amateur Champion James will be able to call on a wealth of experience, having already captured four Challenge Tour titles.
Despite a bogey at the last hole, the man from Dorset still professed himself pleased with a round which keeps him in contention to capture his first title since August 2002, when he won the Finnish Challenge.
He said: “Although my score might not necessarily show it, I actually played pretty well today. Obviously I was pretty disappointed to drop a shot on the last, but overall I was pleased with how I struck the ball. I struggled on the greens again today, but sometimes the putts just don’t drop for you. If I putt tomorrow like I did on the first day, I’ll have half a chance.
“In a funny sort of way I hope the wind does blow again tomorrow, because I don’t mind playing in those sort of conditions. It obviously penalises those guys who can hit it a long way, but I’m not really one of them! I’m two shots behind, but if it’s windy again that can disappear in a second. If it’s calm like it was on the first day, I’m probably going to have to shoot five or six under to win. So I’ll assess the situation tomorrow. I’ll probably play steady to begin with, then hopefully take my chances as and when they come along.”
Guerrier matched James’ round of 71 to make it a three-way tie for second, alongside Sjoholm, who posted three birdies and an eagle in a superb round of 66. England’s John Parry is a shot further back on three under par.
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