Nacho Elvira is in prime position to claim his debut Challenge Tour title after shooting “one of the best rounds of my life” on the third day of the inaugural Foshan Open.
Elvira’s best-of-the-day round of 66 moved the Spaniard to 14 under par and saw him open up a three-shot lead over the chasing pack, which is headed by joint overnight leaders Tyrrell Hatton and Sam Walker.
Elvira is rooming with his fellow Texas A&M University graduate Andrea Pavan this week, and he has the current Rankings leader to thank for his improved performances of late after the putting lesson – and new putter – he recently received from the Italian turned his fortunes around on the greens.
Elvira wielded his flat stick to devastating effect on the front nine at Foshan Golf Club, in Foshan City, China, notching a quartet of birdies to turn in 32 and establish a commanding position.
The wheels threatened to come off after the turn, however, as he made back-to-back bogeys on the tenth and 11th, where he three-putted, to slip back into the pack.
But four birdies in his last seven holes re-established Elvira’s supremacy and put him in charge of his own destiny, as he seeks the winner’s cheque of €41,234 and, with it, probable elevation to The European Tour for the first time.
Elvira, currently 50th in the Challenge Tour Rankings, said: “That has to be one of the best rounds of golf of my life. I started out with a good birdie on the first, then it went smoothly from there until the tenth hole, where I hit a couple of bad shots and actually made a good up and down for bogey. Then I got a bit nervous on the 11th and at that point the round could have gone the other way, but I’m really pleased at the way I fought back with four birdies.
“I’ve never been in this position before, so I’ve no idea how I’ll handle the pressure tomorrow. But I was very relaxed today, and I really enjoyed myself. We don’t normally get galleries like this on the Challenge Tour, so we had a lot of fun with the crowds and hopefully I can do the same again on the final day.”
Elvira will be joined in the final group by Walker, whose otherwise flawless round of 70 was spoiled by a shanked shot on the 13th hole, leading to his only bogey of the day.
The Englishman is currently 24th in the Rankings, but a fourth Challenge Tour title would guarantee him a place in the all-important top 15 and so seal a swift return to The European Tour.
He said: “I didn’t hit the ball as well as I would’ve liked today, but I putted extremely well and in the end I managed to hang in there. Hopefully I’m getting the hang of the greens now, because I didn’t putt very well in practice but since the start of the tournament, I’ve read the lines much better.
“It’s a big day tomorrow, but I’m going to try to treat it like any other. I know it’s easier said than done, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience of being in positions like this in my career, so hopefully that might give me a bit of an advantage. I can’t afford to think too much about it – I’ve just got to go out there and stick to my routine. I’m looking forward to it – it’s why you play the game.”
Walker’s compatriot Hatton matched his playing partner’s round of 70 for an 11 under par aggregate total.
Were it not for an ugly three-putt on the last hole Hatton would have held second on his own, but the Englishman – currently 15th in the Rankings – can take solace from the fact that he has edged a step closer to a place on The European Tour.
Indian Shiv Kapur is currently in fourth place on ten under par after signing for a round of 68.