The European Challenge Tour season has only 18 holes to go after a tense third round at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, with as much interest in those contending for spots in the top 15 of the Road to Oman Rankings as in the top of the leaderboard.
Clément Sordet leads the way at Al Mouj Golf on 13 under par, one shot clear of Oliver Lindell, while behind them many of their rivals spent Day Three playing themselves into contention for European Tour graduation tomorrow afternoon.
While Sordet started the week inside the top 15 on the Road to Oman, the likes of Lindell and overnight leader Estanislao Goya – who is in third place on 11 under par – needed good weeks if they were to earn European Tour cards for 2018.
Lindell is only playing this week on a special release from military service and the Finnish teenager knows only a top-two result will be enough, but a patient bogey-free 70 means he is on course for just that as things stand.
Nervous final days await the likes of Jens Dantorp, who is projected to occupy the 15th and final European Tour spot. The Swede experienced last gasp disappointment in Oman 12 months ago, after a closing bogey scuppered his late charge for a top 15 spot.
Scott Fernandez’s blemish-free third round of 68 has lifted the Spaniard into a share of fourth and he is the most likely man to threaten Dantorp’s place – currently not even 2,000 points separate them in positions 15 and 16 in the projected rankings.
Bradley Neil is another who put himself back in contention today. The Scot started the week in 16th place on the Road to Oman but is 18th in the projected rankings after today.
Out ahead, Sordet – all but assured of European Tour golf for next season – is looking to add a second victory of 2017 following the Frenchman’s win in the Viking Challenge.
“It was great to start with two birdies – the perfect way to start the third round,” said Sordet.” To finish with a birdie was also fantastic and I played really solid for the whole round.
“Some of the pin positions today were a bit crazy so you just had to take your medicine and aim eight or ten yards either side – so that’s what I did.
“I am trying not to think about promotion at all. I have been playing really well over the last three weeks so I am just going to keep doing what I am doing as it has worked really well so far.
“Winning would be a really good way to graduate. Hopefully I can get the job done tomorrow as I am really excited to start next season on the European Tour.”
“The plan for the day was to make zero bogeys and I did a pretty good job of that,” said Lindell.
“It was pretty difficult out there, you always have to hit good shots on this course to get close, and it was playing really tough today.
“Tomorrow is going to be a really interesting day. It will be the biggest day of my career so hopefully I can play well.”
“I played really well to be honest,” said Goya. “I had really good opportunities and had really good putts that didn’t go in. Overall I’m really happy with my round.
“Even though the course was as windy as yesterday, the pins were pretty tough – but the course conditions were really good, the greens are getting firmer, so it’s getting tougher.
“I’m enjoying myself and playing well, so there’s no reason not to be relaxed.
“There’s a lot to play for,” said Dantorp. “My plan is just to stay focus and try to get birdies tomorrow – if I can post a nice score I think I would be unlucky if I don’t make it, so it’s pretty much in my own hands.
“I set myself targets for the week but I think that’s going to be tough to reach now so we’re going to have to set a new target for tomorrow and hopefully we can pull it off.
“I know from last year that I can do it. If I can pull off a similar round to last year’s final round I think I’ll be alright so I’m going to aim for that.
“I feel confident on the course so I just need to get some putts to drop, keep going, and hopefully I’ll be fine – I’ve done it before so hopefully I can do it again.”
“It was similar today to the first two days of play,” said Neil. “I’m hitting the ball great tee to green but the putts haven’t really been dropping. I had a nice run on the back nine but then came into a bit of trouble on 16.
“It’s quite hard, it’s been three days of playing golf and it’s not really been in my mind but obviously you see the projected standings when you finish, but it’s changing all the time.
“I’ve still got 18 holes left and there’s a lot of guys just in front of me who I’m sure will be nervous so I’ve got nothing to lose really – I’m outside the top 15 as it stands so the pressure isn’t on me.
“The only way I’ll be nervous is if I’m having a good round with a few holes to go and I know potentially what position I’m in. It’s just another round of golf but there could be a lot of change, it’s so bunched, and who knows what might happen.
“I just need to take care of what I do and hopefully that will be enough. It’s tough to gauge what will be enough but you’ve got to play smart golf and take your chances when they come – it’s going to be a long, painful day but hopefully at the end of it I’m smiling.”
“This is the position we’ve been working all year round to have a shot at,” said Fernandez. “I’m really excited about what I’ve done today, keeping it nice and steady to begin with and then taking some chances when I was coming in.
“I’m really happy about where I am. The whole season comes down to this but I’m just going to treat it like another day at the office and give myself a chance to get in the top 15.
“My goal is to treat it like every day. There’s going to be a lot of emotions going in for a lot of the guys, but you have to trust that, after a whole season, you know what to do.
“I can’t really control what the other guys do so I’m just going to try to do my thing. If I keep playing well I can reach higher goals, so I’m going to give it my best, I feel like I have a good plan for the course, and exciting things will happen tomorrow.”