The final day of the Italian Federation Cup is all set up for a battle royal, as Nicolas Colsaerts will take a one-shot lead over fellow Challenge Tour champions Fredrik Andersson Hed, Rhys Davies and Edoardo Molinari.
Colsaerts made light of damp conditions at Olgiata GC in Rome, Italy, to move to 16 under par courtesy of a flawless round of 66, but the chasing pack will be snapping at his heels to prove who is the top dog.
Belgian Colsaerts, Welshman Davies and Number One Edoardo Molinari of Italy, who traded birdies like prize fighters on a fascinating day, now have the the chance to become the first player to capture three titles on the 2009 Challenge Tour Schedule.
For Andersson Hed, whose round of 64 was the lowest of the week, it is the opportunity to move into the all-important top 20 of the Rankings, with just one event of the season left.
Colsaerts, Davies and Molinari are already guaranteed their places in The 2010 Race to Dubai, but pride will be at stake on what promises to be a dramatic final day.
Of the three men it was Davies who got off to the slower start, with a bogey at the first hole. But he rallied with a birdie at the next and added a further three to turn in 33, the same as Colsaerts and one better than Molinari.
The trio locked horns again after the turn and it looked to be heading for stalemate, until birdies for Colsaerts at the 16th and 17th holes, combined with a bogey for Molinari at the 17th, handed the Belgian a slender advantage.
Colsaerts, who will rise to second in the Rankings with a win, said: “It was so close all the way until the 17th hole, when Edoardo was unlucky to drop a shot and I managed to make birdie. Up until that point, there was literally nothing to choose between the three of us. It doesn’t happen very often that all three guys in the last group play so well, so it was a real joy to be involved. All three of us shaved a lot of holes with our putts, so it would’ve been no surprise if we’d all shot seven or eight under par. It was that intense.
“It’s all set up for another great day tomorrow, because this course allows you to go low – and with those guys in and around me, I’ll have to go low again to win. But I’m really looking forward to it – may the best man win!”
Those sentiments were echoed by his playing and dining partner Molinari, whose round of 68 included five birdies and that solitary bogey. Having already wrapped up the Challenge Tour Rankings the man from Turin can perhaps afford to relax more than Colsaerts and Co, a fact which he hopes will give him a psychological edge.
Molinari said: “It was so tight today, it could’ve finished with any one of us leading the tournament. On a course like this, with so many birdie chances out there, one shot is nothing. Obviously I was a little bit disappointed with the bogey, but I got a bit unlucky with my second shot, which clipped some branches and dropped short of the green. I duffed my chip a little bit because I didn’t have a great lie, and then couldn’t get down in two for par. But I know I’m playing well, so it didn’t knock my confidence.
“I think 22 under par will probably win, and the way I’m playing I feel that’s makeable. It’s just a matter of being patient. I’ll probably be under less pressure than the other guys, because I’ve already won the Rankings whereas Nicolas is third, Rhys is ninth and Fredrik is a bit further behind. So that might work to my advantage, because whatever happens to me tomorrow won’t affect my chances next year.”
For his part, Davies will take confidence from a fine recovery at the last hole, where he hit the trees with his drive and second shot, but pitched his third to within two feet and duly rolled in the par putt.
Davies, who signed for a 67, said: “It could turn out to be an important par, because it’s so tight at the top of the leaderboard. It was a lot of fun out there – we all played very nicely. When you see your playing partners making so many birdies, it can spur your own game on. It was also nice to play in front of a fairly big crowd too. I’m sure most of them were here to see Edoardo, but I’d like to think I played my part. Edoardo and Nicolas are both great to play with, and it made for a great atmosphere and a most enjoyable day. Hopefully I’ll enjoy the final day just as much. It’s all set up for a great shootout.”
Of the leading quartet Andersson Hed perhaps has the most to lose and indeed gain, having come into the week 44th in the Rankings and with his place at next week’s season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final in some jeopardy.
But a flawless round of 64, which featured a ninth hole eagle, banished any such worries, and allowed him to set his sights somewhat higher.
He said: “I played very well yesterday too, but it was the same old story – the putts didn’t drop, and then today they did. My all-round game today was very solid – I hardly made any mistakes. The aim at the start of the week was to stay in the top 45, and I’m well on the way to doing that. There’s still every chance of finishing in the top 15 or even top ten, although I’d have to win either this week or next to do that. But the way I’m playing, it’s definitely possible.
“The guys around me have obviously been in contention a few more times than I have this season, but I’m looking forward to playing with Edoardo to see what all the fuss is about! He’s been so solid this season, and hopefully some of that can rub off on me. It’ll come down to who plays the best golf, and I hope it can be me. I was pleasantly surprised with how calm I managed to stay today, and hopefully I can carry that into tomorrow.”
Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen and Ireland’s Simon Thornton share fifth place on 12 under par after respective rounds of 66 and 70.
Two Swedes are next in line, with Joel Sjöholm in seventh on 11 under par and Peter Gustafsson a further shot back in eighth place.
|5||ANDERSSON HED, Fredrik||SWE||18||-14|