Sven Strüver takes a slender one stroke lead into the final round of the Atlanet Italian Open after a blistering eight under par 64 at Is Molas took him clear of Gregory Havret.
Strüver, who won the last of his three European Tour titles in 1998, finished second in the Algarve Portuguese Open in April but since has had a disappointing season with seven missed cuts and no top tens, leaving him in 65th place in the Volvo Order of Merit. His disappointment was compounded last week when he failed to progress through the first stage of the US PGA Tour Qualifying School, but one good round tomorrow would turn his season around.
The German fired six birdies and an eagle to move to 18 under par 198 as he pulled clear of the pack but knows that a one shot lead is far from comfortable.
“I was a bit shaky in the beginning but from the seventh I hit the ball really close on almost every hole,” he said. “I just had to wait for the ball to drop. I made birdies and eagles from close – the longest was from three foot.
“I’m not far ahead. One shot. I won a tournament where I was seven behind. Anything can happen. I’m on 18 under but you have to count the guys in at least to 12 under par. If you get on a run you can shoot 61 or 62 and there are enough good players out there who have done that before. But if I play well I don’t have to be scared of anybody.
“I’ve been playing all right all season but haven’t holed many putts over the year. When you have such a disappointing year….One week can change everything. The season is not over yet and I want to win.”
Strüver will be paired in the last group with Havret, who first job is now to change his flight now he is playing in the last group for the first time on Sunday. The Frenchman is enjoying a successful rookie season in which he finished fifth in front of the home crowds in the Novotel Perrier Open de France and had secured his Tour card by the end of June. He kept Strüver within reach with a run of three birdies in succession from the 15th to complete a round of 68 to lie on 17 under par 199.
“Three birdies on the last four holes helped,” said the former French Amateur cahampion. “On the 15th my drive as just in the rough and I had a choice of laying up or taking a risk and going for the green. It was big risk but I had to because Strüver was playing well and there were a lot of players on my back. Hit a very good four wood on the green and two putts for birdie.
“I am confident about tomorrow. One shot is not a lot but there are a lot of players behind. It should be a very exciting day of golf.”
Bradley Dredge is a further shot off the pace on 16 under par following his round of 65, seven under par. The Welshman will be drawing on his experience from The Great North Open, in which he had a chance of taking the title before making six on the final hole, as he seeks his maiden European Tour title. Dredge currently lies in 109th position in the Volvo Order of Merit and his initial goal was to move into the top 90 but three outstanding opening rounds have caused him to seek new targets and now has the title in his sights.
Spain’s Diego Borrego, who last week finished joint third to secure his card for the 2002 season, is continuing to enjoy a rich vein of form, firing a third round 65 to move to 15 under par in what is a much more relaxed week for him now he knows he is safe for next season.
But a number of other players face a tense final day as the race to finish in the top 115 in the Volvo Order of Merit draws to a conclusion. Among them are Shaun Webster, who shot a 66 to move into joint sixth place, five shots off the lead but needs to finish first or second to climb into the top 115. Among the others is Massimo Scarpa, who delighted the home crowds with a 64 to move to within five shots of the lead, but he too needs a very high finish to move up from 125th place in the Volvo Order of Merit and secure his playing privileges for next season.