It’s always a difficult task to follow a low round with another, but the resurgent Thorbjorn Olesen did a wonderful job of front-running in the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open, increasing his advantage over the field by another shot Saturday.
The 26-year-old Dane closed with an annoying bogey on his final hole, but his three-under par 68 effort, combined with the course-record 62 on Friday, gave him a three-day tally of 18-under par 195 in the opening Final Series event on the European Tour.
The seven-shot lead he has now, just like the six-shot lead after 36 holes, is the largest this season on the Tour.
At the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, there was a massive group of chasing pack in the form of Italy’s Matteo Manassero, American David Lipsky, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger, China’s Li Haotong and England’s David Horsey – all tied a distant second on 11-under par 202.
South Africa’s first-round leader George Coetzee (66) was among the birdies again after a dismal Friday and joined Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee a shot further back at 203.
On another glorious day, Olesen wasn’t making much of a move as a bogey on the difficult 10th hole saw him at just one-under par for the day after 13 and other players closing in on him.
But as he had done in the previous two days, he went on a birdie binge mid-way through the back nine. He went on an overdrive with a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th hole onwards.
The tournament is Olesen’s to lose now, and he has his own plans to protect the big lead.
Solid round again bodey free... @Thorbjornolesen is killing the field... can some one go low and put some presure?— Pablo Larrazabal (@plarrazabal) November 5, 2016
“I’ve never had a seven-shot lead. I felt a bit nervous when I went out today also because I’ve never been that many shots clear,” said the talented Dane.
“It’s a bit of a weird feeling, but I know it’s not easy and there are a bunch of guys there and it’s possible to shoot a really low one out here.
“I need to stay aggressive tomorrow and keep plugging away.”
Olesen said he was proud of the way he played the round, especially after his 62 the previous day.
“It’s obviously difficult to back up a low round with another good one. I thought I did very well mentally. I was very patient out there. I felt like I was playing some great golf, a lot of good iron shots,” said Olesen.
“Obviously, it’s a shame with 18, but I just lost a little bit of concentration on that tee shot. You lose a little bit of concentration, you get in trouble quickly. So, that’s going to be the key tomorrow.”
Reigning Masters champion Danny Willett suffered a setback in his attempt to go low and get a top-five finish, which is his only chance to reclaim the Race to Dubai lead from Henrik Stenson. Willett shot a three-under par 68, but that only bumped him up to tied 48th on the leaderboard, 16 shots behind Olesen.
The American played a sublime final round, which saw her make nine birdies, including three in the final four holes to tie the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club women’s course record of eight-under par 64 yesterday in Abu Dhabi.
The performance came on the heels of a victory at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France last month and with her prize winnings, the 34-year-old jumps €50,000 past Shanshan Feng into first for the Order of Merit.
“It means so much to me,” Allen said. “I love this Tour so it would be so special to win the Order of Merit. It’s also so, so special to win here because it’s the first ever professional ladies golf event in Abu Dhabi, so yeah overall it’s been such a great week.
“No one can take this away from me,” she added. “I’m the only person that can ever say they won the first ladies golf event here and that is so special. I’m so grateful that we’re here and I’m really excited to come back next year.”
Allen entered the day tied in third with Melissa Reid and behind leader Georgia Hall and second-placed Sarah Kemp. England’s Hall appeared to be in control before two bogeys in the final five holes derailed her as she settled for second at 18-under. Fellow Englishwomen Reid and Australian Kemp were a stroke behind.
Consistency has been key for Allen as she’s had the most top-10 finishes (seven) and birdies (206) for the 2016 season, while ranking third with an average stroke average of 69.15.
The world No79 ranked player, who made 66, 68 and 69 in the first three rounds this weekend, said of her finish: “I’ve been playing great golf all year, so I came into this weekend really confident. Today I just knew that I had to make a lot of birdies because everyone in the last few groups is so good. Georgia already had a 64 this week, so I knew it could be done and I knew I had to go low, especially being two back.
“Today I didn’t even know what score I was on sometimes which isn’t always the case. But I knew I had a lot of birdies and one bogey, but at the end 8-under was better than I thought so I was really happy.”
Being an amateur golfer is a frustrating experience. Great rounds brought down by successive triple bogeys at 17 and 18, while terrible rounds are redeemed by a birdie on the last. What makes it worse is watching those pesky professionals, who make it all look so easy.
We watch enviously, dreaming of what life as a professional golfer might look like. Consistently under par, travelling the world – what an existence! And then it all comes crashing down like a quadruple bogey on 18… again.
For antagonised amateurs, though, the professional experience is not actually as distant a dream as it may seem.
Since 2013, the Turkish Airlines Amateur Golf World Cup has been giving grassroots golfers a taste of the big time with its global series. Around the world, there are 100 qualifying competitions across 61 countries which bring players together to compete for a shot at reaching the Grand Final.
This year’s showpiece is being played at the magnificent Titanic Golf Club in Antalya, between October 29 and November 1. It takes place immediately before the Turkish Arlines Open at the nearby Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort, with those finishing in the Top 10 of the Grand Final given the opportunity to play in the Pro-Am ahead of the European Tour event.
The finalists will be put up in the 5* Titanic Deluxe Belek hotel and for the weekend, made to feel as though they are competing in a professional tournament.
It’s an incredible prize for golf enthusiasts and Sport360 sampled the atmosphere at one of the final qualifiers, played at the pristine Kemer Golf and Country Club near Istanbul.
Poor performance on the course meant that the dream of reaching the Grand Final was put to bed for another year, but Kemer was a fine example of the outstanding venues for the qualifiers.
Part of a 500-acre site in Belgrade Forest, at the foot of the Istranca Mountains, it is an undulating track that requires precision driving to tackle the tight fairways.
The 6,930 yard, par 73 offering was designed originally as a 9-hole course in 1995 by Duttchman Johan Dudok van Heel but was extended soon after and is now the headquarters of the Turkish PGA.
The tree-laden course is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of sprawling Istanbul and it is easy to see why members and visitors alike make the 40-minute drive from the capital to indulge in Kemer’s charms.
Players of all shapes and sizes, standards and backgrounds competed in this qualifier – with Istanbul native Hakan among those to laud the inception of the tournament.
“It’s fantastic to be able to play in a competition such as this,” he told Sport360. “The prize on offer is something really special and it is unusual that amateur golfers like me get to play with such high stakes.
“It’s a challenging course and a challenging environment. I don’t think I will qualify for the grand final this time but you can be sure that I will try again next year!”
The Turkish Airlines World Golf Cup 2016 Istanbul qualifier has began, as a golf ball is shot from Europe to the Asian side of the city! pic.twitter.com/Hha9fuBFbg— Turkish Airlines (@TurkishAirlines) October 1, 2016
Hakan is certainly part of a minority in Turkey enjoying the sport of golf. Kemer is one of just two courses in the greater Istanbul area, a staggering statistic given the population of the city is nearly 15 million people.
But while it may be a little while before a Turkish golfer makes their mark at a professional level, the Turkish Airlines Golf World Cup is doing its best to build a strong association with the sport – both at home and abroad.
For more details on the Turkish Airlines Golf World Cup, visit golf.turkishairlines.com