Oliver Bekker produced a breath-taking finish to a roller-coaster round as the South African extended his lead to two heading into the final day of the Swiss Challenge presented by Association Suisse de Golf, having negotiated his final six holes in six under par.
In an enthralling moving day at Golf Sempachersee, Bekker started strongly and moved three shots clear at one point early on, but he proceeded to suffer a remarkable collapse with six dropped shots leaving him three shots off the pace on four under par for the tournament.
But the 30 year old staged a truly stunning finish and four birdies and an eagle in the final third of his round meant he signed for a one under par 70 and took the outright lead ahead of a packed leaderboard at the sun-kissed Lucerne venue.
I got to a state where I was so far over par that I thought - just go for it, you’ve got nothing to lose now
“I don’t think I have ever finished like that in my life,” said the three-time Sunshine Tour winner. “It was like two different people playing today, the first 12 holes were horrendous. I couldn’t do anything right and I actually got lucky on a couple of holes.
“I holed out from a fairway bunker from 46 yards at the fourth for birdie, I made a couple of 30-footers and then I missed four really easy putts. To shoot six under in the last six, it was a completely different golf game I was playing.
“I just found a bit of rhythm and started hitting good tee shots, which gave me a chance to hit my irons close, and then holed some good putts coming in.
“I got to a state where I was so far over par that I thought, just go for it, you’ve got nothing to lose now. Then I hit a good tee shot at 13, hit it close and made the putt. Then I did the same at the next and all of a sudden I was back in the mix. I just said, lets finish strong, and I managed to do that.”
It was a remarkable round of golf and Bekker is hoping that his poor patch midway through the third round is the last one of the week as he chases a career-changing maiden Challenge Tour title.
I’m proud of myself for coming back the way I did
Having won three times on Africa’s premier professional tour, he is confident that he can write his name in the history books as the first South African winner of the Swiss Challenge in its 12 year history.
“I’m proud of myself for coming back the way I did and I hope that’s the bad stuff done with,” he said. “If it is it’ll be good for me for tomorrow, so I’ve got to believe it is.
“I’m confident now but if you hit a couple of wayward shots all of a sudden you’re making a double or triple. You just have to keep it in play and go out there and enjoy it.”
Gary Boyd of England was two shots back on eight under par after the Englishman carded a two under par 69 to continue his Swiss resurgence, having suffered a difficult period of form in the last two years.
The 28 year old is in confident mood, as a former winner on the Challenge Tour, and also considering his best finish of 2014 came at this very venue, when he was just four shots back going into the final round but eventually finished tied 13th.
“I got off to a nice start again today,” said the 2009 Challenge Tour graduate, who is close friends with Ian Poulter. “I hit a poor shot into the ninth green which stopped my momentum when I was top of the leaderboard.
“I knew if I could get through the next three or four holes I would be OK. I hit a great drive down the 17th and hit a wedge to ten feet and holed that for eagle.
“I bogeyed the last but I’m one back and that’s a great position to be in. I’ve been in this position numerous times which will help, and my swing is feeling good so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“It’s good to have those nerves back. I’ve been there before so you try and look to those experiences you’ve had throughout your career. Whether it’ll be good enough tomorrow I don’t know, but I’ll be giving it a good shot, that’s for sure.”
It had looked for a long time that eight players would share the lead on seven under par at Sempachersee, but in the end there were five players three shots off Bekker’s lead, including young Northern Irishman Chris Selfridge, playing just his second professional event after a stellar amateur career.