Scottish Highlands set for almighty battle

6/22/2013 7:36:57 PM
Byeong-hun An   (Getty Images)
Byeong-hun An (Getty Images)
The Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts was set for an enthralling final day as young Korean star Byeong-hun An and experienced Englishman Steven Tiley shared the third round lead with European Challenge Tour Number One Brooks Koepka just a single shot back.

Koepka, who is fast gaining a reputation as one of the most promising up and coming players in the world, equalled the course record set earlier in the week at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club with a stunning nine under par 62 to climb 21 places into tied third.

The American has won three times on the Challenge Tour in the last 12 months - twice this year - but he will have to overcome the two leaders when he plays in the final group tomorrow if he is to clinch a third win of the season, which would gain him automatic promotion to The European Tour.

An, who became the youngest player to win the US Amateur Championship in 2009, shared the first round lead with Alan Dunbar after equalling the Northern Irishman’s course record 62 and he followed up a steady second round70 with a six under par third round 65 to climb back to the summit on 16 under.

“It was definitely a good round,” said the 21 year old Seoul native. “The start wasn’t so good. I missed a few birdie putts but I’m putting pretty well in general and seeing a lot of good lines and I came pretty close on most putts, even the long ones.

“I holed about a 40 or 45-footer for eagle at the 13th and it was quite straight, but when an eagle putt goes in you begin to think it might be your week.

“This course can get really easy if you are hitting it long. You can get it really close because there are some short holes and we’ll see how we do tomorrow. I’m not sure about how the weather will be, I think it is meant to be bad but I’m OK with that.”

Tiley, meanwhile, carded a superb eight under par round of 63 which included a seven under par front nine and he was looking forward to taking on two young players with huge reputations in what is sure to be a cracking finale at the northern Scotland venue.

“I birdied five of the first six holes so it doesn’t get much better than that,” said the 30 year old. “I’m looking forward to last round, definitely. I have been putting some work in over the past few days and it’s paying off. I’m just playing well really.  

“I played in the group front of Brooks at the Czech Republic and he was hitting it obscene distances. You hear a lot of people talking about him, that he is hitting it a long way and is just a very good player.

“It looks like he has a bright future ahead of him so it will be good to play with him. He is one of the top boys out here on the Challenge Tour this year, so it is always good to play with those types of guys.”

Koepka, himself, is still on top of the world despite feeling tired after a busy nine-week period and is proud that so many people are speaking so highly of him, with some experienced Challenge Tour and European Tour players saying he is the best player they have ever seen.

“It’s nice that people are talking about me,” he said. “I can’t control that but all I can do is go out and play good golf and everything takes care of itself.

“I really want that third win, it’s been driving me a lot. I really want to get one before I go home to the USA for a while and this is my last week. I want to get out there on The European Tour.”

Koepka shared third place with Andrea Pavan, the 2011 Challenge Tour Grand Final winner who finished second in the Rankings behind Tommy Fleetwood that year, after the Italian signed for a five under par 66.

Jens Dantorp of Sweden was a shot further back in fifth place after a two under par 69 left him on 14 under while Scots Jack Doherty and Duncan Stewart were among the group of six players sharing sixth place on 13 under.