Maarten Lafeber will attempt to become the first home winner of the Dutch Open in more than half a century when he goes out in tomorrow’s final group at Hilversumche Golf Club trailing Denmark’s Søren Hansen by a single stroke.
The last Dutchman to win his national title was Joop Ruhl in 1947 but Lafeber, who lives in Amsterdam, put himself right into contention to repeat that feat with a stunning six under par 64, equalling the lowest round of the week, to move to ten under par 200. That set the clubhouse target but Hansen raced home in 30 strokes for a 66 to edge a stroke ahead.
Ireland’s Gary Murphy and Welshman Jamie Donaldson lie a further stroke back in a congested leaderboard.
Lafeber set out determined to be more relaxed and not try to make birdies too quickly but that is exactly what happened as he birdied the first two holes before picking up three more to reach the turn in 30. A sixth birdie of the round was converted on the tenth but there they dried up, missed chances on the two par fives prompting a tinge of disappointment.
“It would be huge to win tomorrow especially as it would be my first win and as a pro you want to win your home tournament,” said Lafeber. “But it will be a long day tomorrow and there are a lot of guys behind me so it will be an interesting day. What I wanted today was to give myself a chance for tomorrow which I have done.
“I know I am playing better each year and giving myself more chances and one week it will be my week. I can’t force it, just have to play well four rounds and hopefully it will be enough.”
If Lafeber is to etch his name in the history books he must first overcome Hansen, last year’s Irish Open Champion, setting the pace thanks to a stunning back nine of five birdies.
In August the boot was on the other foot when Hansen carried the weight of home expectation on his shoulders in the Nordic Open, eventually finishing third, so he is well aware of what to expect tomorrow. A second European Tour title would also prove he is back on the right track.
“It has been a strange year as I have put myself in contention a lot of times and then dropped back,” he said. “It has been painful sometimes but you learn from your mistakes and I am a little closer to where I was last year in the summer. My game is slowly turning around and the second win will be lovely. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow I am sure it will in the future.”
Donaldson and Murphy both finished strongly to put themselves in the frame, Murphy picking up three birdies in the last four holes while Donaldson birdied each of the last three to lie just two off the pace.
“Three birdies to finish got me right back up there,” said Donaldson. “At one point in the middle of the round I just lost the plot and had to put in a strong finish to put myself in position for tomorrow. Two shots off the lead is not a lot. I’m playing well so as long as I keep my focus I won’t be too far away. Game’s pretty good. Just got to get the best out of myself tomorrow.”
Nicolas Colsaerts from neighbouring Belgium is also right up there on eight under par along with Swede Fredrik Andersson, Denmark’s Steen Tinning and Welshman David Park.