INDIA’S Shi Kapur seized the initiative in his bid to secure a playing card for next season’s European Tour by firing a swashbuckling third round of 5-under 67 to take a four shot lead at 14-under-par 202 in the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club.
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Kapur, who played seven full seasons on The European Tour before losing his fully exempt status after finishing 156th in last year’s Race to Dubai, was 20th on the Challenge Tour Rankings prior to this week’s season ending finale.
The 31-year-old knew that he needed a good result to secure a top 15 finish on the Rankings which would enable him to bounce straight back up the main Tour. He needed all of his mental resilience to battle back from a shaky start that included successive bogeys holes 3 and 4 which saw him slip four behind. But they were his last dropped shots of the day as he rattled off five birdies and a stunning eagle on the eighth to take control of the tournament.
“I had a rocky start to say the least and had a couple of bad breaks early on,” said Kapur, who won the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge. “I was a couple over and just trying to fight back and get myself back into the tournament but my long eagle putt on eight gave me the boost I needed for the rest of the round.
“I wasn’t playing too much attention to what the other guys were doing. I had my own goals in mind to shoot a solid round of golf. When I made that eagle I felt, ‘OK I’m back to double-digits under par and I can kick on from here’.
“Experience today was key with the pins tucked. I think the thing I have managed to do well recently is to be patient. I haven’t started too well in many rounds but I have managed to stay patient and shoot low numbers.
“I would like to reverse that tomorrow and hopefully get off to a fast start and then I can be patient on the back nine.
“I think if you concentrate on trying to win the golf tournament, everything else will take care of itself. That was my goal at the start of the tournament – just try and win or be in contention and look and permutations at the end of it so if I can go out and take care of business tomorrow those things will take care of themselves.
“At the end of the day you play sport to be under the gun. It’s not a lot of fun when there is no pressure out there so when the pressure is on and you hole the putts you need to it’s a lot more satisfying.
“Hopefully I can keep it going. There’s a long way to go in the tournament so that’s where experience comes in, three rounds is not the tournament and I still have a lot of work to do tomorrow to get the job done.”
On a day of difficult scoring Holland’s Wil Besseling put together an impressive round of 4-under 68 to storm up the leaderboard into second place. The Dutchman was 42nd on the Rankings coming into the tournament and only a win will be good enough to gain him one of the 15 European Tour cards and he overcame an off-colour start the day to put in a red hot performance that gives him a fighting chance heading into Sunday’s final round.
“I’ve had a fever recently, which was starting to clear up, but this morning it felt like it was coming back so it was a bit tough in the heat,” said Besseling who raced home with a back nine of 32 which included five birdies and a solitary bogey to reach 10-under for the tournament. “I was happy with the start I made and then holed some good putts on the back nine and that really got me into the chase for tomorrow. I’m very happy.
“I thought today the wind was difficult today, it was blowing on and off in different directions. I kind of struggled with that and I think everyone did. The pin positions were also difficult, in the corners of the greens, but I played well and used my head very well today.”
Meanwhile Challenge Tour Rankings leader Andrea Pavan, who had held at least a share of the lead since the opening round, stumbled in his bid to create history as the first player ever to win the Grand Final twice, with a round of 3-over 75 to drop back to a share of third place with Portugal’s Jose Filipe-Lima (71) and Scottish pair Andrew McArther (68) and Jamie McLeary (69), at 9-under.
The 6 ft 2in Italian, who won the event two years ago on home soil, is already guaranteed of a place on The European Tour next season but he’s determined to end a wonderful season on a high note by topping the Rankings, bettering his second place finish in 2011.
Welshmen Stuart Manley and Rhys Davies share seven place at 8-under after respective rounds of 68 and 70.
Sunday’s final round begins with the first tee off at 8.30am with the final tee off at 11.15am. The prize presentation is expected to take place at 4pm.
Free Golf Lessons are available while visitors are invited to take part in the Al Badia Golf Club Nearest the Pin Golf Challenge..
Spectators can register in person at designated areas on the four tournament days to be entered into a draw for a chance to win one of 55 prizes totalling over Dhs 100,000 including full golf
membership of Al Badia Golf Club, a fantastic range of TaylorMade equipment, golf academy packages, performance lab sessions and lavish dining experiences.