Denmark’s Andreas Hartø will carry a two-shot lead into the final day of the Roma Golf Open presented by REZZA, where he is bidding to write his name into the record books as the fastest player to win two Challenge Tour events.
Hartø – whose club miscalculation at the third hole was the only error in an otherwise immaculate display at Olgiata GC, in Rome – moved to 17 under par with a round of 65, which was matched by Frenchman Adrien Bernadet, who heads the chasing pack on 15 under.
Last month, the 22 year old from Copenhagen cut short his scholarship at Augusta State University – the same college where England’s Oliver Wilson honed his game – in order to pursue his dream of becoming a professional golfer, having won the ECCO Tour Championship as an amateur on his Challenge Tour debut.
The decision looks an inspired one, as Hartø is on course to take his tally of titles to two on only his third Challenge Tour appearance.
He said: “I miscalculated my second shot to the third hole by 22 metres, and ended up hitting my nine iron into the bunker. So that was pretty stupid, but other than that I hardly made any mistakes at all. I made some good putts, but none from really long range. So it was another solid day, and hopefully I can see it through tomorrow.
“It might sound slightly stupid having already won once, but I still have so much to learn about myself and the game. So I’m just going to try to have fun, and see where it takes me. You really can’t afford to get too defensive on this course, because there are so many birdies out there. I think I’ve had 20 birdies and an eagle over the three days, so I’ve got to keep attacking because someone could easily shoot a 62 or 63 on the last day, and come right through the field to win.
“But I can’t worry about what other people might do – I’ll just focus on my own game. I’m fairly calm under pressure normally, though I’m sure there will be a few nerves tomorrow. Playing in the final group isn’t something that really worries me – it’s what we play the game for, after all. I’ll try to play with a smile on my face, and hopefully the crowd will enjoy it too. In many ways I can relax, because whether I win or not isn’t really going to affect my chances of getting onto The European Tour. Obviously I’ll be going all out for the win and getting my first big paycheque, but if it doesn’t happen then hopefully there will be other opportunities ahead of me.”
Bernadet, currently 52nd in the Rankings, will be looking to climb into the top 20 by securing his maiden Challenge Tour title.
The Parisian reached the turn in 34 courtesy of a birdie at the seventh hole, but his round exploded into life after the turn with gains at the tenth, 16th and 17th holes, capped off by an eagle three for the second day running at the 15th.
The 25 year old, who needed just 14 putts after the turn, said: “The putter just got hot on the back nine – that was the only real difference. I didn’t hole any really long ones, but nearly everything from inside four metres seemed to drop. Hopefully my run on the green continues tomorrow, because I’m going to have to play well to win.
“I’ve never been out in the last group on the final day before, so it’ll be a new experience for me. But I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully I can make a few birdies early on to put some pressure on Andreas, and also calm some of my own nerves. I’m sure I will have some nerves inside, but hopefully I can use them in a good way.”
The duo will be joined in the final round by Sweden’s Joel Sjohölm, whose run of fine form continued with a five-birdie round of 67.
The highlight of Sjohölm’s came at the ninth hole, where he secured his first eagle of the tournament, but the Swede’s erratic driving gave him cause for concern.
He said: “Golf’s a funny game – whereas yesterday I was disappointed after a 65, today I’m delighted with a 67, because it’s probably the lowest I could have shot. It took me about two hours to wake up, but even after the eagle at the ninth, my driving was still all over the place. I just couldn’t hit it straight – I think I found about two fairways all day.
“It was going right, then when I started aiming left it started going even further left! So I couldn’t work out what was going on. I just hope I can figure something out on the range now, because I can’t rely on my putter getting me out of trouble again, like it did today.”
The best round of the day was provided by England’s Andrew Marshall, who notched three birdies before the turn and added another five after the turn to sign for a 63, the joint lowest of his career.
That moved Marshall from 24th place up to a share of fourth on 12 under par alongside his compatriot Tommy Fleetwood and Switzerland’s Julien Clément.
He said: “I wasn’t great off the tee today, but it was a hell of a display on the greens. I only had 26 putts, which was pretty good going. I got some nice reads from my playing partners’ putts on a couple of holes, but the rest was my own work! It’s nice to show I’ve still got it in me, but I won’t be getting carried away just yet. Though I might if I can shoot another 63 tomorrow!”
Despite closing with a birdie, joint overnight leader Matt Haines of England endured a day to forget, as two bogeys and a double in a one over par round of 72 saw him slip back to a tie for 11th place.
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