Marco Penge will take a one stroke lead into the final day of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final supported by The R&A as he moved a step closer to securing promotion to the DP World Tour at Club de Golf Alcanada.
The Englishman, who entered the week in 24th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, battled tough conditions in Alcúdia to sign for a level par third round of 72 and remain on seven under par, one ahead of Frenchman Tom Vaillant in second place.
Penge and Vaillant started the day in a share of the lead, but after the Frenchman double bogeyed the third and bogeyed the 12th, it looked like Penge would have a commanding lead heading into the final day. However, Vaillant bounced back with two birdies in his final four holes to close the gap to one.
Penge, who is projected to climb into the Number One spot on the Road to Mallorca Rankings, would become the 12th Englishman to win the Challenge Tour Rankings and second in a row following Nathan Kimsey’s Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final and Rankings double last year.
Vaillant is projected to climb 21 places to 12th in the Rankings and secure promotion to Europe’s top tier. The top 21 on the Rankings at the conclusion of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final will earn DP World Tour playing privileges for 2024.
France’s Frederic Lacroix sits in third place on two under par following a two over par round of 74 as the wind swirled on the coastal layout, and he is projected to climb 12 places to 13th in the Rankings.
England’s Brandon Robinson Thompson sits in fourth place on one under par and is projected to climb six places into 20th position on the Rankings, while countryman Sam Bairstow is a shot further back in fifth.
The final round of the Rolex Challenge Tour Grand Final will get under way at 8:32am local time, with Penge teeing off alongside Vaillant and Lacroix in the final group at 11.30am.
Marco Penge: “It felt like today was the windiest day so far. I didn’t think it could get tougher than Thursday but the gusts today came more regularly.
“I played a steady round of golf and I’m happy with how it went. I felt like I was playing well on the front nine and I hit a couple of wedges close and gave myself a few birdie chances early on.
“I struggled to hole anything and then made a bad bogey on 11 but fortunately followed it up with back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13. It was a battle all day and I’m in a good place heading into the final round.
“This is a fantastic venue and the course is tough enough without the weather conditions we have had this week. It’s a real mental battle out there but I’m looking forward to taking on the challenge again tomorrow.”
Tom Vaillant: “It was so tough out there with the wind. I had to fight throughout my round and that’s why you saw some emotion come out with my fist pumps.
“I’m not concentrating on what other players are doing, I’m just trying to concentrate on my own game because you have to keep focussed in these conditions. I love the test when it is difficult because I can be creative with my game and play naturally.
“Every putt matters and that’s what I like. I am going to keep the same strategy heading into tomorrow and hopefully I can secure my DP World Tour card.”
Brandon Robinson Thompson: “It was a real battle. Obviously, the conditions are tough but I stayed really patient and I was positive out there. It was a grind and I’m happy to be in a reasonably good position. It means a lot to us all out here. We’re all just out here trying to do our best.
“It’s been a wild year for me. I’m grateful just to be here this week from where I was at the beginning of the year, I had no status anywhere. I had to play my way on to the Challenge Tour through some invites, and I’ve got a lot of people to thank for helping me perform how I have been. I’m excited but very grateful to be here.
“I think playing The Open was, for me, knowing that I could compete at that level rather than thinking I could. I got a lot of confidence from it.
“I’m living the dream. That’s all I’m doing and that’s what we all want to do. There’s nothing else to be but excited.”