Klas Eriksson clung onto his lead on the third day of the ECCO Tour Championship hosted by Thomas Björn & Mercedes-Benz, but his advantage was cut to just one stroke by a chasing pack which is headed by record-seeking Swede Kristoffer Broberg.
Broberg is in contention to claim an unprecedented hat-trick of titles after moving ominously into a share of second place after a round of 67 which, by his own exceptionally high standards, he deemed merely “average”.
Having won the last two tournaments with an aggregate score of 37 under par, Broberg has come to expect excellence and so was perhaps entitled to feel a touch disappointed with his display, despite moving to ten under par – and within sight of a place in the history books.
Should the 26 year old overhaul Eriksson on the final day of the €160,000 event at Stensballegaard Golf in Horsens, Denmark, he would earn instant promotion to The European Tour after just four appearances on the Challenge Tour this season – and set another record in the process.
Eriksson, who signed for a one over par round of 73 for an 11 under par aggregate total, is certainly wary of the threat posed by his younger compatriot.
He said: “Golf is such a great game when you have confidence, and Kristoffer’s confidence must be unbelievably high at the moment. He must feel pretty invincible right now, and all credit to him because he’s playing some fantastic golf. We were playing in the group behind him today, and he found virtually every fairway and every green, so I’m a little surprised he didn’t go even lower than he did.
“I think his scoring average over the past 11 rounds must be about 65! No doubt he’ll go and shoot another low one tomorrow, so I’m going to have to play very well to beat him, because level par’s not going to be anywhere near good enough to win the tournament. But that focuses my mind a little bit, so I guess at least I know what I have to do: be positive, and make as many birdies as I can.”
For his part, Broberg blamed a cold putter for a round which could, with a touch more luck on the greens, quit easily have matched or even bettered Eriksson’s effort on the second day, when he broke the course record with a stunning 62.
Instead, Broberg had to be content with four birdies and an eagle at the opening hole which got his history bid off to the perfect start.
He said: “I chipped in for eagle on the first, so that’s not a bad way to start the day! Unfortunately I three-putted the third for bogey, which was pretty annoying; but got it straight back with a birdie on the next and then birdied the ninth, which owed me big time after a double and a bogey on the first two days. When I birdied the next I was feeling pretty good about myself, but even though I created chances on virtually every hole coming in, I was only able to take one of them – which was a little bit frustrating to say the least.
“If I’d managed to get the putter going I could’ve gone really low today, but it just wasn’t my day on the greens. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes, it’s frustrating but you can’t always have things all your own way. I’ve been putting very well the last few weeks, so hopefully I can get the feeling back again tomorrow. I know I’m hitting the ball well enough to win – if I can putt well enough, hopefully I’ll get another trophy in my cabinet.”
Broberg was joined in a share of second place by the English duo of James Busby (67) and Graeme A Clark (69) and local favourite Joachim B Hansen, who shot a round of 64.
On a day when the Sicilian Open champion Thorbjørn Olesen conducted a golfing clinic for the fans, Hansen delivered a performance of which his friend and compatriot would be proud, notching six birdies and an eagle at the 15th hole to surge into contention to capture his debut Challenge Tour title.
Hansen said: “Yesterday everything that could go wrong did, but today was a different story. Maybe I was trying too hard yesterday, but today I played freely and just let things happen more naturally. My short game and my putting were very good today, and they’ll need to be again tomorrow to have any chance of winning.
“I’m sure there will be a few friends and family following me tomorrow, so it will be great to have their support. There will be a few nerves in the morning, but that’s a good feeling – it’s why you play the game, and it shows that it means something. I’m looking forward to it.”
On a day of astonishingly low scoring, English Challenge champion Chris Paisley signed for a stunning round of 63 to join Italian Alessandro Tadini in a share of sixth place on nine under par.
He said: “I wasn’t really expecting to shoot such a low round today to be honest, because I haven’t been at my best for the last couple of days. I took advantage of the shorter holes, and holed pretty much everything. There weren’t any huge putts, but I holed a lot from between six and 15 feet. I think I probably only had 23 putts, so any time you do that you’re bound to have a pretty good day.”
Paisley’s compatriot Robert Dinwiddie almost matched his score of 63, but after closing with two bogeys had to settle for a round of 64 and an eight under par aggregate total alongside Iceland’s Birgir Hafthorsson (69) and German Nicolas Meitinger (70).
Dinwiddie said: “My plan today was just to go out and commit to every shot, and I pretty much did that. It’s obviously disappointing to finish bogey-bogey, because I’d been absolutely flying until that point. Standing on the eighth tee I was ten under for my round, so I knew if I could birdie that hole I had an outside chance of a 59, because the ninth is a par five so there’s a chance of an eagle – even though the pin was in a tough position. So that’s how I was thinking, but unfortunately my last two holes were a little bit scruffy. But I can’t complain about a 64.”