Challenge Tour Rankings leader Edoardo Molinari snatched top spot at the Trophée du Golf de Genève late in the third round today as a sparkling eight under par 64 sent him one shot clear.
The race for the title was blown wide open when second round leader Robert Coles was forced to withdraw through injury after three holes, and Molinari took full advantage, reaching 14 under following scores of 70 and 68 in the first two rounds.
Coles shot rounds of 64 and 65 to be three shots ahead of Julien Quesne at the start of day and although the Frenchman initially seized pole position, back to back bogeys in his last two holes gave him a one under par 71 which left him in a tie for second place with English duo James Morrison and John Parry and compatriot Julien Clément.
Gary Boyd, who shot a second consecutive 66, and Peter Baker were another shot back at 12 under while three players, including last week’s Challenge Tour champion Nicolas Colsaerts, were on 11 under.
Molinari shot four birdies on each nine and attributed his low score to an improved performance with the putter.
“I played very solid all day,” he said. “I’ve been playing very well for the last three or four weeks and today I finally started to hole some putts.
“Last week I played well and two weeks ago I was second so I’ve been playing well but maybe my putting hasn’t quite been good enough. But on the back nine yesterday and all day today they started to roll in.
“It’s still very close and there are a lot of guys just behind me but I’m feeling confident and it’s nice to be the leader on the last day. I’d always rather be one shot ahead than one shot behind and I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow. If you’re ahead you can maybe afford a couple of mistakes and you’re still in contention. It gives you some breathing space.
“I like the course – I think it suits my game. If I can shoot a low round again I’ve got a very good chance.”
Victory would significantly boost 28 year old Molinari’s chances of topping the Rankings come the end of the season, but he insisted he is not getting carried away.
“The aim for the season was to finish in the top ten and it still is,” he added. “Obviously I’d love to win it but at the moment I’m not thinking about it and just focusing on playing well and putting as much money between me and second place as I can.”
Coles needs one more Challenge Tour victory to gain automatic exemption on The European Tour for the rest of this season and next, having already had two wins this year - at the MOROCCAN CLASSIC by BANQUE POPULAIRE and the Challenge of Ireland presented by Moyvalley – but injury put paid to his chances of completing the hat-trick in Switzerland.
German Florian Fritsch was in contention after rounds of 65 and 68 but plunged down the leaderboard after a damaging seven over 79 which included back to back double bogeys.