It is sure to be an enthralling final day as there were nine players within four shots of the lead at the conclusion of the penultimate day, with local favourite Chris Doak, promising young stars Chris Lloyd and Morten Orum Madsen and three time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty amongst them.Wakefield and Walker were leading the way on 12 under par after the former’s five under par round of 66 lifted him into contention for a Challenge Tour title for the third time in four weeks.
The 38 year old, who won The European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage in 2010, got off to a steady start with eight pars in the opening eight holes but back to back birdies on the ninth and tenth holes gave him a platform on which he duly built.Three successive birdies from the 13th hole lifted him right into contention and the four time European Tour runner-up is feeling confident ahead of the finale at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club, in Aviemore.
“I got off to a slow start,” said Wakefield, whose sole Challenge Tour victory came at the Tessali Open del Sud in 2002. “I had eight straight pars and I couldn’t make a putt and it was a case of not trying to force it. That’s where I needed my patience.“I just needed to hit the middle of the green and be sensible because I know I'm playing well. The results over the last few weeks have shown that so I'm not going to try and get ahead of myself and try and force it when I know that just playing my game will take me through.
“I made two good birdies on the ninth and tenth and off it went from there. Obviously Sam (Walker) is at 12 under and Magnus (A Carlsson) is at 11 under and they’ve both won - they’re both good players - and then there’s a handful of guys behind who are good experienced players.“The guys are going to be just as hungry as I am but I feel like I'm the guy in form at the moment and I've been at major tournaments where I've been top of the leaderboard. I'm going to use that to my advantage and just go out tomorrow and keep everything the same.”
Walker, meanwhile, admitted that he struggled to emulate the form he showed in his opening two rounds of 64 and 67, respectively, as he carded a one under par 70 to relinquish his four shot overnight lead from the second round.He got off to a disappointing start with a bogey at the first hole before dropping another shot the par three sixth but things improved thanks to back to back birdies at the eighth and ninth and he carded a one under par back nine to remain in the chase for a third Challenge Tour title.
“It got away a little bit early on but I just didn’t play very well the first six holes,” said the 34 year old, a former winner of this tournament in 2006. “I struggled striking the ball, which you can’t do really. I made two birdies at the eighth and ninth and should have birdied the seventh. The pace of my putting was just not very good today.“I got myself back after 13 holes. I got to one under and I thought, ‘get another birdie and get myself in there at 13 or 14 under for tomorrow, be in front again’. Then I just hit a terrible golf shot into the 16th, left it short in the bunker and made a four and then recovered well on the 17th for birdie.
“It will be a great battle now. If I just get myself back into the mode I was in the first two days then we’ll see where we go from there.“I like the battle coming down the stretch. There are a lot of good guys behind who are playing well so you have to keep your focus. You’re not playing against one person so you just have to stay focussed.”
Carlsson is another player enjoying a fine run of form, with a second place finish in the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal and an eighth place finish at last week’s SAINT-OMER OPEN presented by Neuflize OBC helping him to second place in the Challenge Tour Rankings.He moved up four placed to outright third going into the final day in Aviemore thanks to a bogey-free five under par round of 66, which came courtesy of birdies at the second, fourth, ninth, 13th and 18th holes.
“I'm confident going into the final day,” said the 31 year old. “I remember two years ago I played with George Murray in the final group in this tournament. We had great fun and I finished runner-up so I like this place and I like this course. I'm enjoying it.“I'm playing nicely at the moment so if I just keep rolling in nice putts I’m confident of being the winner tomorrow.”
Scotland’s Chris Doak was one of three players a shot further back in tied fourth, alongside Daniel Brooks and European Tour winner John Parry.Lloyd of England and Denmark’s Madsen were on nine under par in tied seventh, while Dougherty was one of three players four shots off the pace on eight under par.