Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka, bidding to win his first event as a professional, and Dane Anders Schmidt Hansen will go head-to-head in the final round of the ALLIANZ EurOpen de Lyon in France after they finished locked together four shots clear of the field.
Kaleka, who only turned professional on Monday, can expect plenty of home support as he attempts to win on his Challenge Tour debut while Hansen is hoping for a win to catapult him towards The European Tour. The leading pair finished on 13 under par 200 at Golf du Gouverneur in Monthieux, with England’s Marcus Higley their closest challenger at nine under par 204.
The pressure of leading since day one looked to finally be taking its toll on 22 year old Kaleka as he dropped three strokes in his opening six holes, but he dug deep and hit back with five birdies in his next eight holes to post a 70 and draw level with Hansen.
Hansen made the perfect start by birdieing his first two holes to put the pressure firmly on the inexperienced Kaleka but could not press on from there and finished with a two under par 69 to match Kaleka’s 13 under total.
“I struggled in the first few holes,” said Kaleka. “I hit bad shots and didn’t have my head on my shoulders. But then I hit two or three good shots and I was still in contention. It will be an exciting day tomorrow. We will see what position we are in after the first nine as it may become match play after that. It’s been a great week and hope it will continue.”
Hansen, a good friend of Celtic Manor Wales Open winner Jeppe Huldahl, hopes to draw inspiration from Huldahl’s win last month. He said: “I have played so many practice rounds with Jeppe, know his game so well, and to see him win on The European Tour gives you the belief that you can also do it.
“I got off to the perfect start with two good putts but couldn’t hole any after that,” he said. “I was playing good golf and had some chances but couldn’t take them. Alex was impressive with how he came back after his start. He is a good player.”
Higley made the most of the benign conditions with a six under par 65 to move to nine under par and within striking distance of the leaders.
The 35 year old, making a rare foray onto the Challenge Tour after competing most of the season on The European Tour, birdied the last to lie four behind the leading pair.
Higley has struggled to take his game up to the next level on The European Tour, currently lying 186th on The Race to Dubai, and needs to find some in the second half of the season.
“I have not made enough on The European Tour, and not made enough on the Challenge Tour either, and I need somewhere to play next year,” admitted Higley, who graduated from the Challenge Tour in 16th place last year. “But one good week will take care of it.”
The birdie on the 18th, after a 185 yards five iron nestled six foot from the pin, was the seventh birdied of the round for the Somerset golfer, whose only mistake came at the 14th.
Scot Andrew McArthur (70), Australian Tony Carolan (70) and Frenchman Francois Calmels (69) lie a further shot back on eight under while Challenge Tour Rankings leader Andrew Butterfield also made a significant move by climbing more than 40 places through the field as he looks to win his second title in the space of a fortnight. The Englishman, who won in Sweden two weeks ago, got off to a flying start with four birdies in the first five holes. He picked up three more birdies thereafter, dropping only one shot on the par three 16th.
Butterfield admitted to “running on fumes” after five weeks on the road but as the halfway point of the season approaches, the 37 year old is in pole position in the race to win a European Tour card.
“I am obviously delighted with the position I am in and I will be trying to win the Rankings,” he said. “There are a lot of good players up there and experienced players to see what happens in the second half of the season. I am in a very fortunate position and feel confident.”
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