Saturday, 31 May 2014
Pontus Widegren  (Getty Images)
Pontus Widegren (Getty Images)

By Nick Totten,
From Golf & Spa Kunetická Hora

At the end of another pulsating day of scoring at Golf & Spa Kunetická Hora there are three men leading the way at 13 under par heading into the final round of the D+D REAL Czech Challenge.

Daniel Gaunt held the lead on his own at the end of the first two rounds, but he has company ahead of Sunday after a 69 on day three saw him caught by playing partner Chris Lloyd and Sweden’s Pontus Widegren.

Lloyd went one better than Gaunt on Saturday to claim his share of the lead, while the fireworks at the top of the board came from Widegren, who continues to impress in his first full Challenge Tour campaign.

He carded four birdies and an eagle on the front nine to pull into contention before a bogey at the ninth looked like halting his progress, but three red figures in a row from the 16th saw his name join those at the top.

“This is right where I want to be,” said the 23 year old Widegren, who hails from Stockholm. “It was good today, there was a nice rhythm playing in a two ball, and both me and Eddie (Espana) played really well today. I got off to a good start, was four under through seven even though I missed a few short chances, so I felt very positive going into the back nine.

“I made a poor swing on nine and made bogey because I had to hack it out sideways after my drive finished in the rough. I made a good save on ten after that and then played solid through to the end, missed a few more short ones, before those three birdies to finish, which were very nice.

“I was a bit lucky to make eagle on the seventh. I was in the left rough with a tricky lie, as it was sitting down a bit, but I thought three wood was the best club to slide through the grass. I managed to get it between the two bunkers and onto the green on the right hand side, about six paces away, and the putt went in from there, which was good.

“Tomorrow will be a bit different with it being a Sunday, but it is a great position to be in. That’s what we work towards and hopefully I can pull it off.”

As for Gaunt, he remained as relaxed as ever after the round, and while he now has company up top in the Czech Republic, he is still very positive about his form and his chances to claim a first title since last year's Telenet Trophy.

“I think me and Lloydy both played pretty good today,” said Gaunt. “I felt we both should have been at least five-six-seven or even eight under, but we just didn’t quite manage it. I’m at the top again though, and I had a lot of fun playing with Chris today, so I’ll just do what I did for the first three days tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.

“I packed this morning because I was so bored with the late tee off, and I’ll go home and have some dinner and a beer tonight, bit of PlayStation to get the competitive vibes going still. I’m really enjoying my golf at the moment though and the course is fantastic. I’m at the top – still – although it is tied with a few others, but something like the first round should be good enough tomorrow.”

Lloyd had never played in the final group on a Saturday, but he showed no nerves en route to securing his place atop the leaderboard. He is excited to be fighting it out on Sunday for a maiden Challenge Tour title, but he won’t change his approach, in the hope that his best is good enough.

“I’m very pleased actually,” said the Bristolian. “I think that’s the first time I’ve played in the final group on a Saturday, so to post a number and be tied for the lead going into Sunday is where I want to be. We both played very nicely, and between the two of us we didn’t really hole much, we shaved a lot of edges and had a couple of lip outs. So that’s the only real difference between the last couple of rounds and today.

“My approach won’t change tomorrow. I’ve played lovely all week, and I know if the putter gets a little bit warm I will be there come four o’clock tomorrow afternoon. I’m craving that first win as I’ve finished second twice, but I’ll try not to think about it too much, stick to my routine and focus on my game and if I’m leading by one come the end of Sunday, I’ll be very happy.”

Behind the leading threesome is European Tour winner Ross McGowan, who is making his first start of the season on the second tier having not arrived until Wednesday evening, after a late call up to come play in the Czech Republic.

Since his European Tour days the Englishman has struggled a lot with two separate wrist injuries, the first coming in 2010 at Wentworth when he struck a root. He has been working hard at home in Dubai over the winter though, and if he were to replicate his bogey free 66 on Sunday then he could be celebrating a first Challenge Tour success since 2007.

A shot further back at 11 under par and in a tie for fifth is Frenchman Thomas Linard (67), alongside Finland’s Peter Erofejeff, who fired a best of the day 65 on day three.

The only Czech player to make the cut, Lukas Tintera, shot a two under par 70 on Saturday to enter the final round in a tie for 42nd place.

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