Stuart a Man with a plan in Finland

8/3/2013 3:52:00 PM
Stuart Manley ( Kilappa)  (EuropeanTour)
Stuart Manley ( Kilappa) (EuropeanTour)
Stuart Manley equalled the course record to take a two shot lead into the final day of the Finnish Challenge as an eight under par 64 put him in the driving seat for a maiden European Challenge Tour title at Kytäjä Golf.

The Welshman entered the day three shots off Brandon Stone’s lead but eight birdies in a flawless round meant he overhauled that deficit and then some and will play alongside Stone and Jens Fahrbring, both two shots back in 16 under, on Championship Sunday.

The 34 year old started with a par but his round caught fire thereafter as he recorded three birdies on the trot from the second hole before two more, at the seventh and ninth, took him to the turn in five under.

He pulled clear of the chasing pack as he picked up shots at the tenth and 12th before holing a 40-foot putt for birdie at the 15th, and the former Walker Cup player is relishing the opportunity to claim a first title, having been in position to do so a number of times before.

“It was really enjoyable out there,” he said. “The company with Jens and Duncan (Stewart) was great. I played with Jens in the opening two days too and he is a good lad. We had some good banter on the course so that makes the round a lot more enjoyable.

“I think I had 25 putts today, at least Duncan told me that on the last hole, he was obviously counting! He couldn’t believe some of the putts I was holing today and there was a lot of distance to add to that, I holed some big ones so that was nice.

“There were a lot of ten and 12-footers I holed out there too and I made some good par saves. I think the sun will be out on the final day and I play better in the sun. The crowds are great and the course is good so I'm looking forward to it.

“I've been here a few times and I just need to go for it. I need to play well and move up the Rankings and think about the bigger picture. I need to go out there and be positive and if I do that I can’t do any more.”

Fahrbring, meanwhile, was delighted to have bounced back from a bogey on the first by birdieing the next four holes and admitted that for a large part of the third round, he was just trying to keep up with the on-fire Manley.

“We were all firing at the pins today and I made some putts early on and I think it helped all three of us today,” said the 29 year old, who carded a six under par 66. “It was a fun day.

“I three-putted the first for bogey but I came back and made four birdies in a row so that was nice to get it going. I three-putted again at the sixth but followed that up with a birdie too and that was key I think.

“I played really nicely, that was my best round so far this week. I'm not used to being in this position so I was a little tense at the first but it was nice to get the ball rolling after that.

“I was just trying to keep up with Stuart to be honest. We weren’t thinking about making pars at all because he kept making birdie after birdie so my mind set was to just try and stay close.”

Stone was disappointed with his worst round of the week, a three under par 69, but believes his game is still in good shape to go on and claim a dream win on his Challenge Tour debut.

“I had a few bogeys today, two of them were pretty careless three-putts,” he said. “I'm still hitting it good but I struggled with my putting a little but I am going to go work on the putting green and get that sorted out.

“If I can hit the ball like I did today, hitting 17 greens again, it’s going to be a fun day out there tomorrow and I’ll give myself plenty of opportunities. I'm definitely still in with a shot, without a doubt, and if I keep playing how I'm playing I’ll put in a stern fight so I'm looking forward to it.”

Daan Huizing is another young gun hoping to claim a first title after the Dutchman set the course record of 64 – later equalled by Manley – to move into tied fourth place, four shots off the lead, alongside Portugal’s José-Filipe Lima and Swede Niklas Lemke.