Hoey and Elson lead the way

5/21/2011 5:42:25 PM
Jamie Elson  (Getty Images)
Jamie Elson (Getty Images)

Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and England's Jamie Elson look set to go head to head for the Madeira Islands Open after the pair moved two shots clear of the field at Porto Santo Golfe.

Hoey, whose only previous European Tour title also came on Portuguese soil at the 2009 Estoril Open de Portugal, shot a five under par round of 67.

That left him nine under for the week at the breathtaking Seve Ballesteros-designed venue, and he was joined by Elson when the 30 year old signed for a round of 68.

Leading the chasing pack on seven under are Scotland's Alastair Forsyth, Frenchman François Delamontagne and England's first round leader Chris Gane, with home hopes resting on Ricardo Santos, who matched the best-of-the-week round of 66 to sit alone in sixth on five under par.

Hoey, 32, carded six birdies before dropping his only shot of the day at the 16th.

He said: “It wasn’t quite as solid as yesterday’s round, but I feel like I probably should’ve shot eight under, so I feel like I’ve left two or maybe even three shots out there. But I’m in a good position for tomorrow, hopefully I can play the last few holes better,  which I’ll need to if I’m going to have a chance to win.

“It’s going to be tough again tomorrow, so I’ll just have to play aggressively. And it depends what the weather’s going to do. The course was playing tougher today, because they put the tees back on some of the threes. I’m just going to try to get a good rest, and give it a go tomorrow.”

Elson has had two top-five European Tour finishes already this season, and the son of former Rookie of the Year Pip Elson was delighted with his efforts.

“I’m thrilled to bits, it’s my second straight round of four under, and in these conditions, I’m extremely pleased,” he said.

“My game plan seemed to be working quite well, and I putted really nicely today, so overall I’m very pleased. In a final round it's all about getting off to a steady start, just keeping it in play, making the right decisions, and if a couple of putts go in, then great.

“I’d say that whoever makes the fewest bogeys tomorrow will win. I’m sure the pins will be a little bit more difficult again, so par is your friend tomorrow. It’s always nice being in the last group, I’ve been in the final group a couple times already this year, so I’m slowly getting used to it. Hopefully I can go one better.”

Santos, who has had three top-15 finishes on this season’s Challenge Tour, ranked his six under par effort as a career highlight.

“It was one of the best rounds in my career, especially because this is a very important tournament for me,” he said.

“If I win, I'll get my Tour card for the first time, so it’s a big prize on offer. The wind today was more or less the same as yesterday, so a little lighter than the first day. A few years ago that would have caused me so many problems, because I didn’t know how to play in the wind, so I’m pleased with the work I’ve done with my coach.

“It was important to make up and downs on four holes – the fifth, ninth, 13th and 17th – to keep the momentum going. My par save on the 13th was from the bunker, so that was very pleasing.

“You always need a little bit of luck when you miss the green, but I worked really hard on my short game when I came here three weeks ago to practice for a few days. I don’t know how many putts I had today, but I know it was a low number. I had a lot more confidence on the greens today, especially when I had to save par. Of course I’m looking forward to tomorrow, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself.”