England’s James Morrison climbed into a share of the lead on the third day at The European Tour’s Qualifying School Final Stage thanks to a superb best-of-the-day 63 at PGA Catalunya Resort.
The 28 year old Surrey native defied swirling winds to post eight birdies and just the one bogey to reach ten under par for the week as the leading half of the draw played the Tour Course at the stunning resort just outside of Girona, in north-eastern Spain.
Sweden’s Jens Dantorp fired a two under par 68 to also reach that tally following the third day’s play, while the South American pair of Estanislao Goya and Fabrizio Zanotti both shot 67 to remain one shot further back as the gruelling contest reached its halfway point.
Morrison, who is playing the Final Stage for the first time in five years this week after finishing 139th in The 2013 Race to Dubai, showed some exemplary ball-striking on Tuesday in birdieing four of the five par threes and surged 39 places up the leaderboard into a share of top spot.
“It does feel good to be up the top of the board,” said the 2010 Madeira Islands Open BPI – Portugal champion. “It is always a funny week at Tour School what with us being through three rounds and still having three to go.
“You’ve just got to keep playing well and keep it ticking along while staying within a decent distance of the leaders.
“I knew today playing the Tour course that it was the last chance for a low one, I felt like I could have a good score today. We were first out too so the greens were good and I’ve been playing well for a few months without it quite clicking but it is finally starting to come around.
“It has helped us with the leading half of the field being on the Tour course today. It was playing like a four-club wind out there this afternoon so I wouldn’t want to play the Stadium Course in the wind. The other guys are going to find it hard playing the other course so today was a chance to really push yourself up the field and luckily enough I did that.”
This week, playing in his fourth Qualifying School Final without yet having gained his playing rights here – he eventually did ascend to The European Tour after finishing 18th on the Challenge Tour in 2009 – Morrison said that after a disappointing campaign he is glad to be getting back on track, and over two courses which he clearly enjoys.
“I played here in the Qualifying School when it was first held here five years ago but haven’t been back since,” he continued. “The courses suit my game. They are just two good golf courses; they say the Tour is easier and I know I have shot a good score but there are still a few smelly holes out there which you need to focus on.
“And the Stadium Course is just a good test of golf. Play well and you can shoot a good score, but don’t and you can shoot a hundred – it’s a great challenge.”
Dantorp, meanwhile, said it was a grinding day but was happy to make a 16 foot birdie putt at the last to jump into a share of the lead with 54 holes remaining in Girona.
“It was a bit gusty today but I’m lucky because it’s the conditions I’m used to playing in at home – for me it’s a normal thing,” said Dantorp, who finished 21st in the Challenge Tour rankings this year. “Today was so-so with the putting but I was pleased with that finish. It’s a great place to be in and I’m happy with where I am at the moment.”
American John Hahn failed to build on his two-shot overnight lead as he struggled to a three over par 73, while his compatriot Brinson Paolini shot a best-of-the-day 68 on the challenging Stadium Course to move into a share of 26th place on five under par.
The top 70 players and ties at the conclusion of the fourth round will go on to play two more times over the Stadium Course while those sharing 25th place and better come close of play on Friday will claim a coveted European Tour card for the 2014 season.