Joint leader Oscar Floren of Sweden will bid to end his drought at the ALLIANZ Golf Open de Lyon, but he has Challenge Tour champions Charlie Ford and Thorbjørn Olesen breathing down his neck.
A level par round of 71 for Floren, who is seeking his maiden title since turning professional in 2007, saw the Swede relinquish his overnight advantage, as he was joined on ten under par by Denmark’s Olesen, Austrian Florian Praegant – who shot a stunning round of 64 – and home hope Tony Raillard.
Olesen, who captured his maiden Challenge Tour title at The Princess last week, is bidding to become the first player to claim back-to-back victories this season.
His fellow Challenge Tour debutant Ford, winner of the Turkish Airlines Challenge presented by Carya Golf Club earlier in the season, is in a group of players tied for fifth place on nine under par.
Ford’s victory in Turkey came at the expense of runner-up Floren, but the Swede is hoping to turn the tables tomorrow, when the temperatures at Golf du Gouverneur in Lyon, France, are again expected to top 30 degrees.
He said: “Nothing went right for me on the greens today, but the good news is that I’m still right in contention. Sometimes things don’t go your way out on the course, and today was just one of those days. My only birdies were with two putts at the par fives – none of my other birdie putts even came close to the hole really.
“I would’ve expected to be at least two or three shots off the lead after a 71, so I’m actually pretty pleased I’m still tied at the top. If I can get the putter going again tomorrow, then I’ll have a chance. I’ve already finished second once this season – now I feel ready to win. Hopefully it’ll be my day.”
Olesen has already enjoyed his day in the sun, having triumphed by two shots in Sweden last week. But the talented Dane is determined to cement his place in the top five of the Rankings with a second victory in his maiden season.
He said: “I played very well all day really, particularly at the start. I stiffed my approach to the seventh, and that really got my round going. I made two stupid bogeys on the back nine, especially on the 13th hole where I missed from less than a metre. But it’s sometimes hard to keep your concentration in the heat, so mistakes can sometimes happen. If I cut out the mistakes tomorrow, I’ll have a good chance.
“Obviously the win last week gave me a lot of confidence and belief that I know I can get the job done. I had my caddie Dan on the bag for the first time last week and he’s here with me again this week, so hopefully we can get the same result! I feel good and I’m playing well, so why not?”
The lowest round of the day was posted by Praegant, who but for a triple bogey at the 14th hole yesterday would be the man to catch.
The Austrian opened in fine fashion with two successive birdies, before picking up another shot at the eighth hole for the third day in a row.
Praegant, searching for his maiden Challenge Tour victory, then came home in just 31 to set up a final day three-ball with Olesen and Raillard.
Frenchman Raillard, who plays most of his golf on the Alps and ALLIANZ Tours, is making his first appearance of the season on the Challenge Tour.
The man from Montpellier is certainly making his most of the opportunity, having notched seven birdies in a round of 66.
His fellow Frenchman Julien Guerrier is one shot back on nine under par, alongside the English trio of Paul Dwyer, Ford and Adam Gee.
Ford opened with a bogey and, despite rallying with birdies at the third and fifth holes, could only manage a level par round of 71.
He said: “I never really got anything going all day. A lot of drives seem to roll just off the fairway and into the semi-rough, and from there you can’t really afford to be too aggressive, because you’re liable to get a flyer. But tomorrow’s another day, and hopefully I can get another win on the board. Obviously I’ll be drawing on my experience in Turkey, and hopefully it’ll stand me in good stead.
“It was quite a similar situation, in that it was a fairly packed leaderboard going into the final round. And obviously Oscar was up there too, so hopefully that’s another good sign. If I can shoot a 63 like he did on the final day in Turkey, I think there’s probably a fair chance that I’ll win!”
Rounding out the top ten are Joel Sjöholm and Inder van Weerelt, who sit alongside Ford and co. on nine under par after respective rounds of 66 and 69.