The Aa St Omer Open is set for a thrilling final day in the north of France – with no less than six players jamming the top of the leaderboard on three under par, 210 after round three.
Englishmen David Geall and Simon Dyson, Italy’s Massimo Florioli, Frenchman Jean-François Lucquin, Finland’s Pasi Purhonen and Carl Suneson from Spain are locked together at the summit of a truly continental Aa Saint Omer Open leaderboard.
Of all the frontrunners, it was Geall who made the biggest move during the third round, his four under par 67 taking him from tied 25th position into a tie for first place.
“I played solid all day – 14 pars and four birdies,” said Geall, “and to be honest I didn’t look like dropping a shot all day. I had 16 greens in regulation and the two that I missed I got up and down well so I am very happy with that.
“It just came together that little bit more than it had been at the end of the round at the and I managed to take advantage. My short iron play sort of came into its own and I managed to get the ball close and roll in the putts. I had a wedge to six feet on the 15th, a nine iron to four feet on 16 and then a nice eight iron into the last to about six feet. It’s always nice to finish strongly.
Florioli and Purhonen – playing in the same Saturday group – came to prominence with respective rounds of 69 and 68, and Lucquin soon joined them with his own two under par round of 69.
The Frenchman enjoyed some good, bad and ugly fortune during the course of his 18 holes at the 6799 yard St-Omer Golf Club, the most notable piece of luck coming at the ninth when he hooked his ball out of bounds, only to see it smash off a tree and come back into play.
“That happened just after I had been plugged in the bunker on the eight and had ended up with a double bogey. I was trying to kill the ball and got very lucky to escape with a par.
“I am happy to be in among the leaders and feel good for tomorrow. I had a great crowd following me today and I hope it will be the same tomorrow because it will help me. I would love to win in front of the French people.”
Dyson carded his third successive 70 of the week to remain in the hunt as he looks to go one better that he did in last month’s BMW Asian Open on The European Tour, where he finished runner up to Miguel Angel Jimenez.
He followed that up with a second place finish behind Matthew Morris at the European Challenge Tour’s Nykredit Danish Open two weeks ago – now he is determined to secure his first victory of the year.
“I do fancy my chances,” said Dyson. “I’m playing nicely and if I can get to grips with the greens and keep making the birdie chances then I will be there or thereabouts. My positional play has been really good – using my head and managing the course really well.
“I feel that I am due a win after China and Denmark, I really do. I have grafted hard and worked hard on my game and am playing well. With a bit of luck I can do it here. I’m just going to go at it tomorrow.
“All the players out here are good, good players but they are separated by people winning when they are in top form – not just getting into the top ten and making good finishes, but actually winning the tournaments, that’s what I need to start doing.”
Suneson, meanwhile, was the only one of the leaders to shoot an over par score during round three, his 72 bringing him back into the six way tie.
“I did alright today – I think tomorrow will be a very interesting day for everyone with so many players starting on three under. It could be a really tense finish.”
And finally, Englishman Ian Garbutt notched the first albatross of his career, and indeed his golfing life, at the par five 14th hole of the St-Omer GC with an unbelievable three wood approach from 248 yards.
That was the second albatross of the 2004 European Tour season, following Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand's two at the par five 17th at the Marriot Forest of Arden during the final round of the Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters.
“I absolutely nailed my drive first of all, it went over 300 yards,” said Garbutt. “It had to be because the hole was playing really long. Then I absolutely nailed the 3 wood but I thought it had gone over the green, because although there was people up at the green nobody clapped or anything. It was only when I got to the green that they told me it was in the hole!
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had an albatross – I’ve had 11 holes in one, two of those in tournaments, the best of which was at the Heineken Classic at The Vines where I won 100,000 Australian Dollars for holing in one at the 16th there.”