Scottish pair Richie Ramsay and Andrew McArthur share the lead with France’s Romain Wattel going into today’s final round of the Hassan Trophy at Golf du Palais Royal in Morocco.
McArthur and Wattel both carded rounds of 67 to move through the field yesterday, with Ramsay starting the day in a share of the lead but having to settle for a 71 containing five birdies and four bogeys, the last of which on the 18th cost him the outright lead.
I’ve been playing the Challenge Tour for one too many years
“It felt pretty good, it just sort of crept up on me,” said McArthur, who is making just his third European Tour start of the season. “I am delighted.
“I have accepted I am not striking it as I want to but I have found something to get it in play and try and get it pin high, hole a few putts and you never know.
“I played well in Joburg [finishing joint 18th], moved myself up a lot on the last day. I putted well so hopefully that continues tomorrow.
“It would be massive if I could win. I’ve been playing the Challenge Tour for one too many years. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I need to get through those first four or five holes. They are brutal. I got really lucky on the second today. I duffed my chip and managed to walk off with bogey. I could still be there chipping. The leaderboard is packed so I just need to get on with it and see what happens.”
Ramsay, a two-time winner on the European Tour and former US Amateur champion, hit a tree with his second shot, and after a fine eight iron third shot, he just missed the hole with a 20ft par putt to make it a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m pleased to be in the hunt,” the Aberdonian said. “I’m a fraction frustrated as I played some great stuff out there. I hit a lot of shots down the target line and nearly holed some iron shots out there, but I just couldn’t hole any putts. I got a couple of bobbles. I’m giving myself opportunities and sooner or later I’m going to hole some. I’ve not holed many this week, so I’m due some tomorrow.”
George Coetzee staged a superb fightback to keep his hopes of qualifying for the Masters alive. Coetzee needs to win in Agadir to book a trip to Augusta National for the year’s first major championship in a fortnight’s time, but found himself six shots off the lead after a front nine of 39 on Saturday.
However, the South African carded five birdies and one bogey on the back nine to card a 71 and finish six under par, which proved enough to lie just one shot off the lead as the leaders stumbled on the closing stretch. Coetzee is part of a seven-strong group which includes former champion David Horsey, Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood also needs to win today to qualify for the Masters, but is five shots off the lead after struggling to a 73 which included a triple-bogey eight on the fifth.
In the women’s event, also taking place in Morocco, France’s Gwladys Nocera will take a two-shot lead into today’s final round.
The 13-time Ladies European Tour winner, who lost a play-off to England’s Charley Hull in this event 12 months ago, carded a third round of 68 to finish 12 under par and double her overnight advantage at the Lalla Meryem Cup at Golf de l’Ocean in Agadir.
South Africa’s Nicole Garcia is Nocera’s nearest challenger on 10 under following a 69, with England’s Eleanor Givens and Finland’s Ursual Wikstrom two shots further back after rounds of 68 and 70 respectively. Defending champion Hull is 11 shots off the pace despite a 67 yesterday, her lowest score of the week.
Top Scot is Pamela Pretswell whose 71 left her with a three-round total of 209, eight shots off the lead. Five shots further back is Kylie Walker who returned a round of 70.
n Marc Warren’s hopes of qualifying for the Masters are receding after the Scot scored a second-round 74 at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. The Scot needs a top-15 finish to make it to Augusta but is tied for 46th place at the halfway point, on 148.
One shot better off is Martin Laird after a second-round 71. Russell Knox is on 151 after a 73.
Home favourite Jimmy Walker leads the tournament after a second-round 67. Walker, who lives in San Antonio, opened with a 71 but followed that with an impressive five-under round as three birdies in his final four holes took him clear of Aaron Baddeley and overnight leader Charley Hoffman.