Clement Sordet saved his very best until last as the Frenchman rose to the top of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final on Moving Day in Oman.
This tournament presents the last chance for the Challenge Tour’s golfers to earn enough points on the Road to Oman to seal a top 15 spot – and a European Tour card for next season.
A top 10 finish at Al Mouj Golf would just about seal it for Sordet but the 25-year-old is clearly in it to win it, as he started the third round with back-to-back birdies.
Then a back nine of 33, including a birdie on an 18th that had a fiendishly tricky pin, saw him move to 13 under and take a one-shot lead over Oliver Lindell heading into the final day.
“It was great to start with two birdies – the perfect way to start the third round,” said Sordet, who won the Viking Challenge earlier this year. “To finish with a birdie was also fantastic and I played really solid for the whole round.
“Some of the pin positions today were a bit crazy so you just had to take your medicine and aim eight or ten yards either side – so that’s what I did.
“I am trying not to think about promotion (to the European Tour)at all. I have been playing really well over the last three weeks so I am just going to keep doing what I am doing as it has worked really well so far. Winning would be a really good way to graduate.”
18 holes to go
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) November 3, 2017
But the next 18 holes promise a fierce battle as Lindell and Thursday’s leader Estanislao Goya kept up the pace with solid rounds.
Lindell went bogey-free to go two under for the day while, if not for a double bogey on the 15th, Goya would be sharing the lead with Sordet rather than two shots behind.
“I played really well to be honest, I had really good opportunities and had really good putts that didn’t go in,” said third-placed Goya. “Overall I’m really happy with my round.
“Even though the course was as windy as yesterday, the pins were pretty tough – but the course conditions were really good, the greens are getting firmer, so it’s getting tougher.
“I’m enjoying myself and playing well, so there’s no reason not to be relaxed.”
Lindell was excused from compulsory military service in his native Finland for the tournament – and he’s remaining cool under fire.
“The plan for the day was to make zero bogeys and I did a pretty good job of that,” said the 19-year-old.
“It was pretty difficult out there, you always have to hit good shots on this course to get close, and it was playing really tough today.
“Tomorrow is going to be a really interesting day. It will be the biggest day of my career so hopefully I can play well.”
Just three shots separate the top seven and the most impressive performance of the day belonged to Erik van Rooyen, who moved into a tie for sixth after firing a round of six under.
Teenager Oliver Lindell proved he’s a sharp shooter on day two of the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final after jetting into Oman fresh from military service.
Lindell has just started his compulsory military duties in Finland, where male nationals are obliged to complete six months of service after they turn the age of 18.
There is no get-out clause even if you’re a professional on the European Challenge Tour – though special conditions apply when you’re competing on the Road to Oman.
And Lindell has clearly not let an extraordinary week get on top of him as his magnificent eight birdies on day two at Al Mouj Golf catapulted him into second, just one shot behind leader Estanislao Goya.
“I think (military service) is good for me,” said the 19-year-old. “We do pretty normal and basic things like shooting, getting the bed made – it’s long days starting from six o’clock and ends at quarter past nine. I’m on the sports side so we get free time from 5pm until 9pm.
“It’s good that I get out because for the first two weeks everyone has to be in, but I came from China so I said I had to practise for the next week.”
Even if Lindell gathers enough points to enter the top 15 and qualify for a European Tour card this week there’s no escaping what awaits him back home.
Low round of the week ✔️#NBOGrandFinal co-leader ✔️
Well played @LindellOliver
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) November 2, 2017
“Let’s see how the road continues from here because over the next two or three weeks depends on how I play these last two rounds. It will be interesting,” he added.
“If I’m in top two I will go back to military service, but if not I have the European Tour qualifying final.”
Of the four day one leaders only Argentina’s Goya remains at the summit, sinking a birdie at the 18th that nudged him just ahead of Lindell at 11 under-par after another fantastic round.
However the Argentine, who was a Grand Final winner on the Challenge Tour nine years ago, insists he cannot afford to rest on his laurels.
“It was a really good day for me today,” said Goya.”It was a little bit hotter so I had to keep hydrated a little bit more, and it was a little bit more tricky in terms of the wind, so we had to be very careful and focus, make sure we were in the right places.
“I think these days the Challenge Tour is getting more and more difficult, the standard is getting even stronger. You can see that from the players who have won this year, so many different winners, and it truly is the Challenge Tour.
“You have to play really well to get yourself into the top 15. I’m in a good position, I still have chances, so I’m just going to go out there and enjoy it this weekend.”
Two Frenchman in Thomas Linard and Clement Sordet – who hit a hole in one on the eighth – currently share third place.
Time may not be on Nick Cullen’s side but the Australian is desperate to prove he has what it takes amid a fierce and fresh-faced field at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final in Oman.
Not only is a cheque for €70,000 on the line this week but a precious European Tour card for next year – a gateway to the money and glamour alongside star golfers such as Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose.
The top 15 in the Road to Oman rankings will be able to cash in though, in Cullen’s case, only a top-two finish will be enough for him to leap into the sought-after spots.
It’s still a long shot – the 33-year-old shares a five under-par lead after the first round at Al Mouj Golf with Poland’s Adrian Meronk, Argentina’s Estanislao Goya and Oscar Lengden of Sweden – and he admits experience only goes so far.
“Although I dropped one at the last it was a really good round in what is a really important week for me,” said Cullen, who has twice qualified for The Open Championship.
“Although I have played in Majors I don’t think that any of that will help you this week. The pressure is huge and there are a lot of really good players – lots of young guys coming through – so it is really tough out there and I am just trying to play as well as I can.
“I have been really consistent this year, something that I have been throughout most of my career, but I have gone three seasons without a win. I am desperate to return to the winners’ circle and this week would be the perfect time to do it.”
As things stand…
Lengden, Goya and Cullen would move into the top 15 at the expense of Dantorp, Heisele and Sciot-Siegrist pic.twitter.com/0cYgphMhJ4
— Challenge Tour (@Challenge_Tour) November 1, 2017
Englishman Aaron Rai, who qualified for the European Tour earlier this year, came close to adding his name to the leading quartet but bogeyed a troublesome 18th.