Grant Forrest chasing maiden European Tour triumph in Morocco

Grant Forrest made five birdies in his final 11 holes in the third round of the Trophee Hassan II in Rabat. Picture: Getty Images
Grant Forrest made five birdies in his final 11 holes in the third round of the Trophee Hassan II in Rabat. Picture: Getty Images
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Grant Forrest has a maiden European Tour win in his sights - and the third Scottish success of the 2019 season - after moving into contention with a circuit to go in the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco.

The 25-year-old from North Berwick had been slow out of the blocks at Royal Dar Es Salam in Rabat as he opened with a 75 on Thursday, but it’s been impressive stuff since then on one of the toughest courses on the circuit.

He backed up a bogey-free 70 with a four-under-par 69 in the third round, making five birdies in the last 11 holes, to move to five-under-par, sitting just three shots behind the leader, South African Erik Van Rooyen, in joint-fourth.

“To win,” Forrest, who is bidding to add to tartan triumphs already this season by both David Law and Stephen Gallacher, told Sky Sports in reply to being asked about his aspirations for the final day in the Rabat capital.

“That’s what everyone is here for - I hope (laughing). I think when you are in this position, you don’t know what is going to happen, but that’s what we are trying to do tomorrow.”

In easier conditions than Friday in the €2.5 million event, Forrest’s first par of the day came at the sixth, having made two birdies and three bogeys beforehand, but his card was transformed by gains at the eighth, ninth, 12th, 15th and 17th.

“It was an up and down day,” added the Craigielaw player. “I made a couple of silly mistakes early on, missing a short one at the third for par then making a poor bogey on the par-5 fifth.

“It was really eight and nine that got me going. I hit two good shots on to the front of the green at eight then hit one close at nine, which is quite a tough par-3.

“After that, I had to do a bit of scrambling as it is getting firmer out there and, if you are not on the fairways, it is really tought to hold the greens. I was trying to miss it in the correct places and I managed to grind it out.”

Forrest, one of four Scots to graduate from the Challenge Tour last season, came into this event sitting 111th in the Race to Dubai, having finished joint-seventh in Mauritius in his second event of the season and has making the cut in seven out of 11 events.

“I think shooting low scores is what the Challenge Tour sets you up for, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily prepares you fully for courses as tough as this one, whihc is one of the toughest we play,” said the former Scottish Amateur champion.

“But playing two full seasons on the Challenge Tour, as I did, gets you used to Tour life and I think it is the best way to prepare you for life on the European Tour.”

Van Rooyen, who finished with three birdies to sit one ahead of Spaniard Jorge Campillo, held a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the Irish Open last year before ending up joint-fourth as Russell Knox claimed the title at Ballyliffin.

“I was quite nervous then,” admitted the 39-year-old from Johannesburg, who finished runner-up up to compatriot Justin Harding in the Qatar Masters earlier this season.

“Nerves will be there again tomorrow, but I love to be in this position, having been in it a bunch of times now, and we will just keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

David Law, who was playing in the same group as Forrest, is next best among the Scots, sitting joint-21st on level-par after a 73, with Marc Warren (79 for five-over), Stephen Gallacher (77 for eight-over) and Richie Ramsay (78 for eight-over) all outside the top 50.

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Connor Syme is on course to get his 2019 Challenge Tour campaign off to a strong start - and perhaps even a win - in the Turkish Airlines Challenge.

The 25-year-old Drumoig man sits just three shots off the lead heading into the final round of a low-scoring event at Samsun Golf Club on the Black Sea coast.

Syme, who opted the play in this event instead of the Trophee Hassan II on the European Tour as he attempts to secure a foothold back on the main circuit next season, carded a bogey-free six-under 66 in the penultimate circuit.

On 18-under, he is lying joint-fifth heading into a final-day shoot-out that will see Poland’s Adrian Meronk start with a one-shot lead over Dane Mark Findt Haastrup.

Also in the title hunt is 2017 St Andrews Links Trophy winner Matthew Jordan, as well as Frenchman Gregory Havret, who won the Scottish Open in 2007 then added the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles the following year.

Englishman Jordan sits two off the lead along with compatriot Ben Stow while Havret is three shots further back after a blistering 10-under-par 62.

Scott Henry, the only other Scot to make the cut helped by a hole-in-one in his second-round 65, is tied for 25th, slipping 15 spots after a 71 for a 12-under-par total.

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Swede Lina Boqvist and Spaniard Nuria Iturrios are set for a final-day showdown in the LET’S Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.

The pair sit seven shots clear of the chasing pack at Royal Dar Es Salam, where the event is running concurrently with the European Tour’s Trophee Hassan II.

Michele Thomson is the leading Scot, sitting joint-22nd on three-over, followed by Kelsey Macdonald (six-over), Kylie Henry (eight-over) and Carly Booth (eight-over).

Booth had started the day just outside the top 10 but slipped to a share of 49th spot after an 80, dropping seven shots in six holes on the back nine.

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Scottish pair Grace Crawford and Carmen Griffiths are both in the mix in the Girls Under-16s Amateur at Fulford, where compatriot Hannah Darling claimed victory in the event’s inaugural staging 12 months ago.

After a second-round 74 for a one-over-par total, Gullane starlet Crawford sits joint-fifth, just ahead of Griffiths on two-over after the Aboyne youngster signed for a 75.

Italy’s Francesca Fiorellini, the overnight leader after an opening 71, had to settle for a 76 in her second circuit but is still out in front.

She holds a two-shot cushion over England’s Maggie Whitehead, with another home hope, Eve Neild, and Fiorellini’s compatriot, Matilde Innocenti Angelini both on level-par.

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