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Final Stage set for dramatic finish

Final Stage set for dramatic finish

The battle to earn European Tour playing privileges will go down to the wire with 22 players within three shots of the all-important 25th position, while Benjamin Poke posted a two under par round of 69 to retain the European Tour Qualifying School Final Stage lead at the end of the fifth day.

Benjamin Poke

The Dane has set the pace at Lumine Golf Club since day two and he will head into the final round atop the leaderboard on 18 under par, two strokes ahead of Finland’s Sami Valimaki on 16 under and three ahead of Frenchman Adrien Saddier and India’s S.S.P Chawrasia, who share third place on 15 under par.

Poke is currently nine shots inside the cut-off for a European Tour card, with the top 25 and ties earning European Tour cards following the conclusion of tomorrow’s sixth and final round.

Last year’s Qualifying School joint-winner Alejandro Cañizares is one of six men who share fifth place on 14 under par, a group which also includes three-time European Tour winner Grégory Havret, Englishmen Marcus Armitage and Toby Tree, Canada’s Aaron Cockerill and Korean Jinho Choi.

While those near the top of the leaderboard will be looking to consolidate their position during the final round of the tournament, there are still plenty of men aiming for a last-minute breakthrough into the top 25.

Englishman Steven Tiley and Spain’s Pedro Oriol both carded three under par rounds of 68 to move into a tie for 33rd place, just one stroke outside the top 25, while Ireland’s Niall Kearney and Scotland’s Daniel Young each posted four under par rounds of 68 to join the group on the cusp of the qualification spots.

The biggest mover of the day was five-time European Tour winner Darren Fichardt, who posted a sublime seven under par round of 64 to move from the cut-line and into a tie for 16th place, which offers the South African a great opportunity to regain his playing privileges after finishing 130th this year in the Race to Dubai.

Poke, who finished 29th on the Road to Mallorca Rankings in his maiden European Challenge Tour season, said: “I’ve just tried to approach every round and every day in the same way and just hit one shot at a time. A few ups and downs out there today but that is golf and there is no day that is the same, so overall, I’m really happy with today’s performance.

“I was feeling the nerves a little bit at the start but once I got it going it just felt like another day out on the golf course and I was just enjoying playing golf. I had some nice playing partners and we just talked along the way. Four back-to-back birdies is always nice to get your game going as well and I managed to hole the putts over the opening few holes which gave me some good momentum."

France's Havret admits anything can still happen with emotions poised to run high in the final round and will approach his final 18 holes with a familiar mindset.

"After last year I still wanted to play golf and I had the opportunity to play the Challenge Tour and I think it’s a great Tour," he said. "I wanted to play a full year there and try to get back to the European Tour through the Challenge Tour, instead of playing a few European Tour events and a few Challenge Tour events, I thought it was good to stick on one Tour, and I really enjoyed it, I must say.

“To be tied fifth after five rounds of a professional golf tournament is pretty good, but there are still 18 holes to go and anything can happen, so the important thing is that I keep focusing on the same things I have all season on the Challenge Tour and all week here at Q-School.”

The final round will begin at 9.00am local time on Wednesday November 20, where the top 25 players and ties will earn life-changing European Tour cards for the 2020 season.