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Saturday, 06 October 2012
Lloyd Saltman  (Richard Heathcote)
Lloyd Saltman (Richard Heathcote)
Three former amateur starlets will battle it out in the final group at the ALLIANZ Open de Lyon as Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman takes the lead into the final day, a shot clear of fellow former Walker Cup player Sam Hutsby and record-breaking ex-US Amateur Champion Byeong-hun An.

All three are chasing a first title on the European professional circuit and will play in the final group at Golf de Gouverneur in search of the biggest win of their respective careers.

Saltman, the former English Amateur Open Stroke Play Champion who twice represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup, leads the way after a second successive three under par round of 68 which moved him to the front on ten under.

After entering the day three shots off the lead, the Edinburgh man birdied the par three third hole before bogeying the seventh – thanks to a difficult lie in the rough for his approach - to reach the turn in level par.

The determined 27 year old, who would significantly boost his chances of making the season-ending Apulia San Domenico Grand Final with a win this week, came out with all guns blazing on the more testing back nine and back to back birdies at the 12th and 13th followed by another gained shot at the last elevated him to the top of the leaderboard.

“It was a great back nine today because it’s the tougher nine I would say,” said Saltman. “It was a bit breezier today and I didn’t really get a chance on the front nine. I said to (brother and caddy) Zack, I want to be leading after today, so we just said ‘be patient’ and then we were joking about it when I hit it close at the 18th - it all worked out.

“It was pleasing and a good day’s golf. The focus this week has really been to play to win and I’m in a great position so I'm looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge.

“I had a good record as an amateur and I've won a few smaller tournaments as a pro but I just haven’t done it on the big stage yet. I've had a second and a third place on the Challenge Tour but it would be really nice to get my first win here in Lyon.

“I feel really comfortable out there and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and seeing what’s thrown at me and trying to handle it as best I can.”

A shot back were Hutsby and South Korean An, who became the youngest player to win the US Amateur Championship in 2009, beating the record set a year previous by Danny Lee and previously held by Tiger Woods.

The 21 year old also needs a high finish this week to keep his season on the Challenge Tour alive and, after a three under par third round of 68 which included a birdie at the last, he is feeling in good spirits as he chases a maiden professional victory.

“I had to play well here just to make sure I have a Challenge Tour card for next year,” said An. “But I was playing pretty well in the last few weeks and hitting it well so I just needed to play my game.

“It will be my first time in the final group and it’s supposed to be rainy tomorrow so it will be fun. I love to play, I don’t care what group I’m in. I just want to play and hopefully my game will stay like this. I can’t wait; it’s going to be a big day.”

Hutsby couldn’t repeat his heroics of the second day, when an eight under par 63 moved the Englishman into a two shot overnight lead, but is relishing the opportunity to play in the final group as he looks to improve on his one over par third round of 72.

“It was a bit of a boring start with seven pars,” said the 25 year old, a former Spanish Amateur Open Champion. “I hit some really nice shots then and thought I’d hit good putts but they were difficult to read. I took a few risks towards the end and got punished but it’s a day where you can blow yourself out of it and I didn’t do that.

“It’s still a nice position to be in I suppose. It’s almost a bit of match play in the final group and I haven’t had that for a while, the last time I had it was when I finished second at Qualifying School Final Stage, and I really enjoy it.

“My game’s a bit inconsistent but hopefully tomorrow things can fall into the right place and I can have a nice finish.”

Two Frenchman were a shot further back on eight under par, alongside Scotland's Chris Doak, as Baptiste Chapellan and amateur Romain Langasque kept alive hopes of a second successive French home victory on the Challenge Tour after Julien Brun's victory in Toulouse two weeks ago.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1DOAK, ChrisSCO18-13
2SLUITER, TimNED18-13
T3HANSEN, Joachim BDEN18-12
T3GARCIA PINTO, JordiESP18-12
T3SALTMAN, LloydSCO18-12
T6WALTERS, JustinRSA18-10
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