Christian Nilsson was unable to reproduce the fireworks of the previous day, but a steady round of 70 saw the Swede hold a two shot lead heading into the final day of the SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by NEUFLIZE OBC.
After consecutive birdies at the 11th and 12th holes at Aa St Omer Golf Club, Nilsson looked to have established a commanding lead, only to card a double bogey five at the 17th which saw the Swede slip back towards the chasing pack, headed by England’s Robert Coles and France’s Francois Delamontagne.
However, Nilsson rallied with a birdie at the last, before heading to the clubhouse to watch his beloved Sweden take on Spain in the European Championships.
He said: “It felt great to make a birdie on the last hole, to make up for the disappointment of the double bogey on 17. I had a really long putt from the top tier, hit it too hard, and the ball rolled off the green. I chipped back on and two putted, which at the time felt like a disaster.
“But it could’ve happened to anyone, so I forgot about it straight away, and focused again. Overall I was really pleased with my game, although I didn’t make nearly as many putts as I did yesterday.
“Now I can watch Sweden’s game against Spain, though I’m not sure it will be very relaxing for me – I feel nervous already, and it hasn’t even started yet! At least it will take my mind off tomorrow though.”
Earlier in the day, Coles’ fine round of 66 – which could’ve been even better were it not for a double bogey on the 12th hole – saw the Londoner move to two under par, level with home favourite Delamontagne.
Coles lost his European Tour playing privileges after struggling for consistency, but he has targeted a high finish at Aa St Omer Golf Club in a bid to kick-start a season which, by his own admission, has stuttered somewhat.
He said: “I’ve been really short of confidence. When you’re not putting a run of scores together, it’s hard to believe in yourself. Once you find some consistency, then obviously your confidence grows. But I haven’t been able to do that, mainly because I haven’t made many cuts. So it’s been a slow season. But hopefully I’m peaking just at the right time.
“The way I look at it, this tournament is a Challenge Tour Major, so it’s a very big deal for me. I was happy just to make the cut yesterday, but now obviously I’m thinking about playing well tomorrow, and finishing high up on that leaderboard. I’d like to win a Challenge Tour event, but obviously this would be even better.”
Fellow Challenge Tour player Delamontagne is another with high hopes of securing his maiden victory of the season.
The Frenchman sunk a 12 foot putt for par on the final hole to ensure a bogey-free round of 67, much to the delight of the home fans.
Delamontagne said: “I made a few good saves today, and that is the key to low scores around here – your putting. I know the course very well, so that’s a big advantage. I know where I can miss the fairways if need be, and I also know where to position the ball on the green. But that doesn’t mean I can always do it!”
Delamontagne is trailed by one shot by Wales’ Liam Bond and Belgium’s Nicolas Vanhootogem, whilst England’s Richard Bland shot a 67 to finish on one over par. He is one shot behind England’s David Dixon and Scotland’s Steven O’Hara, who carded rounds of 69 and 70 respectively.