Benjamin Hebert is hoping to maintain French golf’s ‘feelgood factor’ after taking charge of the Credit Suisse Challenge.
Hebert has been inspired to raise his game by the recent victories on the Challenge Tour from his compatriots Edouard Dubois and Anthony Snobeck, respectively second and 15th in the Rankings, and at the Alstom Open de France by Thomas Levet.
The 24 year old from Brive is aiming to become the third French winner on this season’s Challenge Tour after a four-birdie round of 67 on the third day of the €150,000 event moved him to 12 under par, three shots clear of the chasing pack. Incredibly, Hebert has made just one bogey over the course of the three days at Golf Sempachersee near Lucerne, Switzerland, and believes his near-faultless displays are amongst his very best since he turned professional in 2009.
He said: “My driving was good again and my irons were also working very well, especially on the par threes. I hardly made any mistakes today or for the last two days, so this week has to be one of the best of my career so far.
“With Anthony winning once and Edouard twice already, it made me realise that it was possible for me too. French golf at the moment is enjoying some good times, both on the Challenge Tour and the main Tour, with Thomas’ win two weeks ago. So I thought maybe this week would be my turn!
“I’m obviously confident for tomorrow because I know I’m playing well. I’m sure I will be a little bit nervous, but after the first few holes hopefully I’ll calm down and get into my usual routine. There aren’t any leaderboards on the course until the eighth hole, which is actually quite good because it means I can just concentrate on my own game without having to think too much about what anyone else is doing. If I can keep concentrating and not make too many mistakes, I should be alright.”
Hoping to capitalise on any jitters from the Frenchman are the in-form Italian Federico Colombo and the English duo of James Heath and Steven Tiley, all of whom share second place on nine under par.
The trio are all searching for their first victories on the Challenge Tour, but Colombo is confident of ending his drought after continuing the fine recent form which has seen him climb to third place in the Rankings. The 23 year old, who notched five birdies in his round of 68, is aiming to keep the title in Italian hands following his friend and compatriot Alessandro Tadini’s victory 12 months ago.
Colombo said: “I was disappointed to bogey the 17th, but to come back with a birdie at the 18th made me feel much better about life. I played OK, but will probably have to play a little bit better on the final day if I’m going to win. I think the forecast for the last round isn’t great, but I seem to play well when the weather’s bad. So hopefully I can use that to my advantage.”
Tiley is also used to testing conditions, having grown up playing links golf at Royal Cinque Ports near Royal St George’s, the host venue for this week’s Open Championship. The 28 year old carded three birdies in a round of 69, which he deemed solid rather than spectacular.
Tiley said: “I didn’t get off to the best of starts, but the birdie on the fifth got me going. I putted quite nicely and my short game was also good, but I was disappointed I didn’t create as many chances as I would’ve liked on the way in. If the weather’s good tomorrow I’ll probably have to make a few more birdies to stand any chance of winning, but if it’s not then it might be more a case of just trying to hang in there and take your chances when they come along.”
Heath’s round of 67 – the joint lowest of the day with Hebert – was a mixed bag, with three bogeys cancelling out his seven birdies.