Spaniard Carlos Del Moral carded a brilliant seven under par 65 in the fifth round of The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage to share the lead with Englishman Simon Wakefield.
Wakefield himself had an impressive round, seven birdies contributing to a five under par 67, and the pair reached 16 under par to lead Spaniard Alfredo Garcia-Heredia by a shot heading into the final day at PGA Catalunya Resort.
Del Moral, who missed out on graduation to The European Tour through the 2010 Challenge Tour Rankings by one place and a mere €538, had the round of the day with five birdies in the first seven holes and nine overall.
The 25 year old, who won the third card at Qualifying school in 2008 but came 141st on The 2009 Race to Dubai, said: “It was an amazing round today. My caddie and I were saying this front nine owes us a bit, especially the first five holes yesterday as I didn’t score that well. Today it paid me back big time. I played beautifully and made many putts.
“Finishing 21st on the Challenge Tour was very hard to take. It took me three or four days to restart my practice. I’m not going to say it has paid off because there’s still tomorrow, but it is paying off.”
Del Moral, who had an albatross and three eagles in rounds three and four, added: “Yesterday was the craziest round of my life. I couldn’t take that many up and downs emotionally again. I slept 12 hours last night because I was a wreck. My pace was better today and hopefully it will stay tomorrow.”
Wakefield made a magnificent start, mirroring his previous round by birdieing the first three holes and then going one better by making it four in a row.
He said: “I’m happier than yesterday which is nice. I got off to a similar start with four in a row to start. I hit an awful putt at the fifth and hit it to three feet at the next and the putt lipped out so it could have been six in a row.
“This was my nervous round today. I was a bit apprehensive this morning and didn’t feel right, couldn’t settle and didn’t hit it well on the range in warm-up, so to hit a good tee shot and hole a tricky putt for birdie steadied the ship. Then I hit it close the next three and holed the putts, and I just tried to keep as calm as possible.
“From the 11th to the 15th I struggled a bit and had a silly three-putt on the 11th. But I birdied the 16th and I was delighted to finish with two pars after yesterday’s performance (two bogeys). So I’m heading into tomorrow in good spirits.
“I’ve come here to do one job and that’s finish in the top 30 but my goal now is to finish as high as possible. Tomorrow – and even the back nine today – I’ll treat like a normal tournament. I want to win this thing now. Thinking of being in the top 30 is out the window, I’m in Sunday tournament mode now.”
Garcia-Heredia, who signed for a one under par 71, admitted the long week was starting to take its toll. He said: “I’m trying to keep the same game as the last four or five days but it’s been a very long week and I’m hoping to play better tomorrow. I’m feeling a little bit tired because I was playing in the States, then second stage, then here and it’s a lot of golf.
“It’s difficult to keep your concentration sometimes after so much golf and on this golf course if you miss one shot you can end up with a very high score so you have to stay focused on every hole.
“I’ll be trying to play my best tomorrow and if I have the chance to win in the last few holes I’ll go for it. I got my card here in 2008 and made it in by four or five shots but I had a pretty bad back nine and had to deal with that pressure. So I know what it’s like to be under pressure in this situation.”
Young English amateur Matthew Nixon also carded a 71 to be one of five players three shots off the lead on 13 under par.
“There’s still 18 holes left to play and a lot can still happen in those 18 holes, so I’m certainly not counting my chickens just yet,” said the 21 year old. “I didn’t really get much sleep last night because there were too many thoughts racing through my mind, so I’m pretty tired at the moment, mentally and physically. But hopefully I’ll get a good night’s sleep tonight, come out refreshed tomorrow and finish the job off.”