New Zealand’s Ryan Fox birdied the closing hole to take a three shot lead into the final round of the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge in France, as he maintained his impressive bid for a maiden European Challenge Tour title in just his fourth appearance.
The 28 year old has led for the duration of the tournament at Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, following a course record 62 on Thursday and second round of 67 with a three under par third round of 68, for a 16 under par total.
An eventful front nine of 33 included two birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on the par five eighth hole, before a further birdie on the 13th hole was followed by a bogey on the 14th. He finished his round on a high, however, with a closing birdie to extend his one shot overnight advantage to three, with Frenchman Thomas Linard his nearest rival on 13 under par following a round of 69.
Fox, who is the son of former All Blacks rugby union legend Grant Fox, started his Challenge Tour career with two top ten finishes before qualifying for The Open Championship and making the cut at St Andrews last week.
He is now in pole position to become the first Kiwi to win on the Challenge Tour since Gareth Paddison back in 2007, a victory which also came on French soil.
“Today the breeze was a lot stronger than it has been on the last couple days, so I’m very happy to shoot three under,” said Fox. “I probably played better than I did yesterday, but I just made a couple of mistakes in club selections and made some bogeys, but the rest of the day was really, really good.
“There was a big crowd in front following Thomas, so I imagine that tomorrow they will be there and pulling for him over me. But anyway, France is treating me very well and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Linard, a winner last year on the Challenge Tour, finished runner up on home soil last month in the Najeti Open Presented by Neuflize OBC, and he will be hoping to go one better by reeling in Fox after three birdies – including one on the last hole – and one bogey in his round of 69.
“I made a beginner’s mistake on the 17th - I raised my head while putting,” said Linard. “My ball slid on the right side and I bogeyed the hole. But I’m happy because I birdied right after on the 18th. I could even have done better because I had a really nice shot with my iron but the slope made my ball roll to the rough on the side.
“I have three shots to recover tomorrow and it is something that I can manage. The last time I won in the Czech Republic, I was two shots behind and I was eight under to win by two.”
American Connor Arendell, who is attempting to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot, 2013 champion Brinson Paolini, is a further shot back on 12 under par after a round of 72, alongside Sweden’s Stephen Jeppesen, who signed for a round of 68.