SCOTTISH duo Andrew McArthur and Jamie McLeary remain on course to earn full European Tour cards next season after a gruelling third round in the NBO Challenge Tour Grand Final in Oman.
As scores soared in a strengthening wind at Almouj Golf in Muscat, McArthur and McLeary ended the day sitting 13th and 15th respectively in the battle to finish in the top 15 on the money-list.
Hopes of a third Scot being among the card winners when the dust settles on the season-ending event were dented when Scott Henry finished bogey-bogey after getting to within a shot of the lead.
But, sitting three back heading into the final round, the 28-year-old still believes he can get into the title mix and, hopefully, join McArthur and McLeary in making it a triple Scottish celebration tomorrow.
McArthur, who came into the event sitting tenth in the rankings, carded a second successive level-par 71 to jump 14 places to joint-24th.
On still being inside the card zone heading into the last circuit of the season, the 36-year-old Glaswegian said: “It is nice to be in and I still feel I can shoot five or six-under to put me in a position where I’ll be fine.”
No matters what happens on the final day on this excellent Greg Norman-designed course, both McArthur and McLeary will be guaranteed a minimum of 20 starts on the European Tour in 2016.
But McArthur, a former Scottish Amateur champion, is determined to secure a full card so that he can plan his schedule without having to rely on occasional late call-ups.
“You want to play in all the big events,” he added: “You might play in 20-odd events finishing just outside the top 15, but six to ten of them will be last minute and you’d need to play Challenge Tour in the middle as well.”
Two years ago, McLeary went into the last round in this same event in a similar situation, the difference then being that he needed to finish second or better to tie up the final card.
Having slipped four spots on the projected list from where he started the event, the 34-year-old is back in that same position.
“Two years ago I was the one coming from behind, but I’d rather be where I am just now, to be honest,” insisted McLeary after staying in 43rd spot in the 45-man field after a 77 for ten-under.
“I know that it’s totally out of my hands now, but I prefer to be on the inside looking out than the opposite way around.”
Henry, who was up to 14th after the first round but now sits 22nd, is ready to come out with all guns blazing on the final day.
“I’m disappointed to have finished with a couple of bogeys but didn’t feel I did much wrong today,” said the Clydebank man after a level-par 72 left him sitting joint-14th on four-under.
“I’m still in contention, which is all I can ask for after the way Id been playing coming into this [missing four out of five cuts].”
While the wind whipping in off the Oman Sea wreaked havoc, Henry is hoping for similar tough conditions on the final day.
“It would sort the men from the boys and it makes it easier to jump up if you do shoot a good score,” he declared.
Now out of the card race, Fifers George Murray and Peter Whiteford both bemoaned poor play after carding matching 77s to sit on one-over and two-over respectively.
“I was s**** today,” declared Murray while Whiteford said he’d “played terrible”, the tone having been set when he drove out of bounds at the first.