Phillip Archer took charge of the Allianz Open Côtes d’Armor Bretagne after shooting a sensational course record round of 61 on the third day of the Challenge Tour event.
The Englishman started the day six shots off the lead held by Roland Steiner, but rapidly overhauled the Austrian with an astonishing display which included six straight birdies from the second hole.
Archer raced to the turn in just 29 strokes after rattling in a succession of birdie putts at Golf Blue Green de Pléneuf Val André in Brittany, France, before adding four further gains on the back nine to climb to 13 under par, two shots clear of Steiner.
The round was Archer’s lowest on the Challenge Tour but not the best of his career – that accolade instead went to his round of 60 on the opening day of the 2007 Celtic Manor Wales Open.
Archer is now in pole position to seal a second Challenge Tour title, which would boost his prospects of sealing a return to The European Tour.
He said: “I’ve actually been playing well for a while now, but the key today was that I holed almost every putt I looked at. Once the first few birdie putts dropped, it was like the hole was huge and I couldn’t miss. All of a sudden my self-belief and confidence was up, and I carried the momentum through the whole round. I was peppering the pin early on, then on the back nine my irons weren’t quite as good, but if anything I putted even better. I holed out from 40 feet on the 14th, 20 feet on the 16th and 30 feet on the last, so it was the perfect way to finish a dream round.
“My control all week has been very good. I only used my driver on three holes – the rest of the time I took my three wood. The wind can be quite gusting at times, so it’s crucial to keep the ball in play. I’ll just go in with the same approach on the final day – I’m playing well so there’s absolutely no reason to change my mindset. It’s obviously hard to follow up a low round with another one, so I’ve got to try to forget about today’s score – hopefully I can reflect on how well I’ve played tomorrow night.”
Steiner was naturally disappointed to have relinquished the lead he has held since the opening day after signing for a round of 69, but remained confident of returning to form on the final day.
He said: “I actually played pretty well again, but for some reason my putter went cold on me today. Hopefully I’ve got my bad day out of the way now, and can have more luck on the greens tomorrow. Credit to Phil, because 61 is a great score, but it shows what can be done round here. I still believe I can win the tournament – I just have to get off to a fast start and get some confidence back into my putting. If I can do that, then I’ll have a very good chance.”
A superb round of 63 saw Adrien Bernadet climb 30 places up the leaderboard into a share of third place alongside England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Welshman Kyron Sullivan, who carded rounds of 68 to join the Frenchman on seven under par.