Connor Syme leaps into card contention with 63 in Spain

Connor Syme made the biggest move of the day with a stunning eight-under-par 63 in the third round of the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain, where Robert MacIntyre is also in a card-winning position at the halfway stage.

Connor Syme carded an eight-under-par 63 in the third round at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona

The dazzling effort from Syme lifted him 74 places into joint-21st, sitting alongside fellow rookie professional MacIntyre on six-under-par after he maintained his position in the all-important top 25 with a 71 at Lumine Golf Club in Tarragona.

Syme, who has made a brilliant start to his professional career, had dropped three shots in his final six holes in the second round but soon repaired that damage playing for the second day running on the Lakes Course.

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Starting on the 10th, the 22-year-old Fifer birdied the 11th, 14th, 16th and 17th as he stormed out in 32 before going one better coming home thanks to further gains at the third, fourth, seventh and eighth.

The bogey-free effort matched the lowest round of the event so far and has left Syme feeling confident that he can go on and join 21-year-old Challenge Tour graduate Bradley Neil in providing some new Scottish blood on next season’s European Tour.

“This is the first time I’ve shot eight-under as a pro, so I am happy about that, but I felt I had a good round coming,” said Syme, who has already recorded top-15 finishes on that circuit after taking full advantage of getting invitations for both the Portugal Masters and Dunhill Links Championship.

“I played very well the first two rounds but didn’t get much out of them at all. So it was good to see a few putts dropping today. I made a silly mistake on 18 yesterday but it is crazy to think it was a 10-shot difference between the two rounds as I felt I played the same.

“It feels like moving day on a Saturday but, of course, it’s only round three, so it’s a a bit different. I kept patient today and it was a very solid round of golf. It was a lot calmer this morning than the last few days and it was nice to take advantage of that.”

The top 70 and ties after four rounds progress to the final 36 holes and players achieving that feat will secure a Challenge Tour category for next season. But both Syme and MacIntyre have a seat at the top table in European golf in their sights.

“It’s a strange format,” admitted Syme, a former Australian Amateur champion who beat top American Maverick McNealy in the US Amateur Championship in Los Angeles earlier in the year.

“It’s very much a marathon and, even when I was sitting 95th after yesterday’s round, I knew there were still 72 holes to come.

“I’ll just keep plodding away and go through my same routines and hopefully it will carry on, but you can’t think about the outcome, really.”

As Englishman Laurie Canter moved into the lead on 13-under after a bogey-free 67 on the Hills Course, left-hander MacIntyre continued to give a great account of himself in an event featuring a posse of players with European Tour titles under their belt.

The 21-year-old signed for four birdies, three of them to bounce back almost straight away from bogeys, on the Hills Course as he, too, maintained some great form since joining Syme in turning pro straight after they’d been team-mates in the Walker Cup in September.

The Oban man won the MENA Tour in Kuwait in just his second start in the paid ranks before producing a low last round at Desert Springs in the second stage of the Qualifying School to book his place in the final.

David Law is next best among nine Scottish hopefuls, sitting joint-34th on four-under after a 70 the Hills layout, while Ewen Ferguson and Ross Kellett are just inside the projected cut mark on one-under after matching 69s.

Ferguson, a member of a winning Walker Cup team at Royal Lytham in 2015, eagled the second on the Lakes Course after finishing his front nine with back-to-back birdies.

Fighting manfully after leaving himself with a mountain to climb after an opening 78, Scott Henry broke par for the second day running with a three-under 68.

But, sitting joint-86th on one-over, the player who finished joint-second 12 months ago at PGA Catalunya still has his work cut out to make it through to the final two rounds.

The same goes for Grant Forrest (two-over), Chris Doak (four-over) and Duncan Stewart (five-over) in an event that sees Canter head into day four with a one-shot cushion over compatriots Sam Horsfield (66) and Ben Evans (68).