Richard Treis gave credence to the phrase, ‘beware the injured golfer’ when he shrugged off back muscle problems to take the lead after the third round of the SWALEC Wales Challenge.
The 29 year old Swedish born German battled to a two under par 70 at the demanding Vale Hotel Golf and Spa Resort on the outskirts of Cardiff to post a three under par total of 213 and take a one shot lead over Spain’s Jorge Campillo who carded a 71 for 214.
Home hopes of a first Welsh victory in the tournament since Sion Bebb won at Nefyn in 2006 were kept alive by Bridgend’s Rhys Davies who matched Treis’ 70 for a one under par total of 215 and a share of third place with the English duo of James Morrison and overnight leader Steve Surry.
But the third day was all about Treis who not only defied back pain but also a run of poor results on the 2009 European Challenge Tour which has seen him miss out on the weekend action in seven of the nine tournaments he has contested this year.
“I know the figures say that but sometimes you have to look a little further than the pure statistics,” said Treis who studied at the University of North Carolina for five years until 2005. “I feel I have been hitting the ball really well in practice recently but it has been a different matter taking it into tournaments.
“But, gradually of late, I have begun to feel that part of my game coming around and I think you can see from my scoring of this week that that is the case.”
The fact only five players in total have finished under par after three rounds goes some way to illustrating the difficulty of the National Course which has been windy and playing its full 7,266 yards thanks to pre-tournament rain.
Unquestionably the tougher of the two halves is the back nine but Treis has continually bucked that trend this week and continued to do so again. In Thursday’s first round he was home in two under par 34, on Friday it was 35 but on Saturday he surpassed both those with superb figures of 32.
He set the ball rolling with an eagle three on the 12th before holing from 20 feet for a birdie three on the 14th. Another birdie three followed at the testing 466 yard 17th before he extricated himself from the trees at the last for a pitch and putt par four, holing out in the end from 12 feet.
“I really don’t think there can be anyone in the field who has played the back nine as well as I have this week,” he said. “You can’t really explain why but it is best not to question it and just hope that I can do the same again tomorrow coming down the stretch.”
Second placed Campillo, another graduate from the US Collegiate system, will return to Indiana in the autumn to complete his business degree but gave himself the chance of taking care of golfing business first with a steady third round 71, his only departures from par coming with birdies at the second, seventh and 12th and bogeys at the fourth and 15th.
Understandably, the bulk of the crowd for the third day followed home favourite Rhys Davies and he did not disappoint them, his competent 70 keeping him well in the hunt for the title and the first prize of €24,000.
“It was pretty solid and a good score but if a few putts had dropped it might have been even better,” said the 24 year old. “I drove the ball well and gave myself plenty of chances from 15 to 20 feet but didn’t take many of them, hopefully I can make amends tomorrow.
“It was good to see some people out there supporting me and hopefully they can come back tomorrow and I will try and give them something to cheer about.”
Those who do come back will have to set their alarm clocks early because, with the threat of bad weather closing in, the final round will take place from a two tee start, beginning at 7.00am with the leaders hitting off from the first tee at 8.40am.