After matching 67s on another soaking wet day in Austria, Alexander Björk and Nacho Elvira will carry a one shot lead into the final round of the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda.
Persistent rain again made for brutally tough scoring conditions at Golfclub Schloss Finkenstein, in Gödersdorf, but the leading pair gritted their teeth and ground out four under par rounds to move to 15 under.
Elvira missed just two greens in regulation all day, but struck his bunker shot to within a foot of the flag on the 11th hole and almost holed his chip shot on the 17th to save par with some ease.
Birdies on the third, fourth, ninth and 18th holes were just reward for Elvira’s fine approach play, and the Spaniard will now go in search of a second Challenge Tour title of the season on a final day when, much to the relief of spectators and the club’s overworked greenkeepers, the sun is at last predicted to shine.
“That was really tough again today,” said Elvira, who won last month’s Challenge de Madrid on home soil to climb to fifth place in the Road to Oman Rankings.
“Fortunately I borrowed Daniel Vancsik’s caddie when he missed the cut, and I’m really glad I did because when the rain is falling like that it’s almost impossible to keep everything dry if you are carrying your own bag. So he was a big help today.
“I think my win in Madrid will help me stay calm and take some of the pressure off me tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be taking it easy, I will still be trying my best on every shot to get the job done. We’ll see what happens – I just hope the rain stops and we can play without our waterproof jackets!”
Unlike Elvira, who already has two titles to his name, Björk will be bidding to secure his first victory on the Challenge Tour was last year in Azerbaijan, where he entered the final round in second place before eventually finishing in a share of fifth behind Moritz Lampert – who coincidentally also won this tournament 12 months ago.
The Swede believes his relative lack of experience in contending for titles will not count against him, however, as he looks to take home the €28,000 winner’s cheque.
Björk said: “It was really tough today. For the first five or six holes it was possible to keep everything dry, but when the rain doesn’t stop you have no chance so you just have to cope as best you can.
“My ball striking has been really good all week, so if I can keep that up on the final day then of course I’ll have a chance. I’m sure there will be a few nerves at the start of the round, but that’s normal and it’s a good thing. I’m excited to get going.”
Paul Maddy will join Björk and Elvira in the final group after signing for a round of 66 for a 14 under par aggregate total.
The Englishman, who has made just one bogey in three rounds, said: “That was a real war of attrition out there today. But given how much rain we’ve had the course has held up incredibly well, so credit to the greenkeeping staff for doing a great job.
“I’m really chuffed with a 66 in those conditions. I haven’t really taken advantage of the par fives so far this week, so if I can do that tomorrow I’ll be in with a decent shout. I thought at the start of the week that around 20 under would be the winning score, and depending on the weather tomorrow that’s probably not going to be too far wide of the mark.”
Flawless rounds of 64 and 65 moved Frenchman Sebastien Gros and Dutchman Daan Huzing right into contention on 13 under par.
Gros struggled in the deluge on day two, but rediscovered his touch in round three with seven birdies in a flawless display.
Huizing also kept the bogeys off his card, firing six unanswered birdies to climb into a share of fourth place on 13 under par alongside Gros and overnight leader Jens Dantorp, who signed for a round of 72.