Benjamin Hebert (pictured by Getty Images) is closing in on a sixth career European Challenge Tour title after a four under par 68 moved the Frenchman two shots clear going into the final day at the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club.
As the season edges towards a dramatic climax, with a host of players still capable of making a late break into the all-important top 15 and thereby earning their European Tour status for the 2015 campaign, Hebert is just 18 holes away from creating history on the second tier.
The Frenchman is aiming to become the first player to win three times in two separate seasons on the Challenge Tour, and a second successive bogey-free round at the sun-drenched Al Badia Golf Club has put him in the driving seat, as he sits two strokes clear of Welshman Oliver Farr.
The 27 year old is happy with how his game has improved throughout the week and will hope to secure a second hat-trick of victories, having first broken through on the developmental tour with three wins in 2011.
“I have shot two under on day one, then three under on day two and now four under, so it’s been really good so far,” said the 2007 European Amateur Individual Champion, who leads on nine under par for the tournament. “There were some very important par putts in there but all in all it was a good day.
“The greens today were a little firmer and faster, but I feel good with my putting, and that’s a very good thing because I have struggled a bit recently in that department.
“It will definitely be difficult tomorrow because Oliver is playing very well this week, so I just want to play my game. I have a very good caddie this week, a good friend of mine, so we’re just enjoying every moment on the course. The weather is perfect and so is the course so we just have to take pleasure from it.
“It’s still very important for me to win because you are near the top of the category list for next year but I just want to enjoy my day tomorrow and see what happens.
“I don’t want to think too much about being the first player to win three events for a second time, the only thing I want to think about is playing well tomorrow and then make sure that I won’t be coming back to the Challenge Tour again and to stay on The European Tour!
“The thing is just improving my game day by day and round after round. It has definitely been in good shape for the last three months. My putting has sometimes let me down, so I want to improve this part of my game, but everything else is running well.”
Farr, meanwhile, has also been a picture of consistency this week having dropped just four shots in his opening three rounds, and a three under 69 left him in outright second place on seven under par.
The 26 year old has had a calm presence about him this week, despite the pressure of entering the season finale still needing a strong finish to secure a Rookie season on The European Tour, and he admitted that having a former professional as a father has proven an advantage.
“My game’s been really good this week,” said Farr, who won the tour championship on the satellite EuroPro Tour last year to secure a maiden season on the Challenge Tour. “I’ve been able to control it well and I’ve just been playing sensible golf, taking the birdies when I’ve needed to.
“I don’t mind talking about where I am in the Rankings when I’m off the course but when I’m on the course I’m just focussed on the tournament in hand and it seems to be working. I was in this situation last year, needing a good finish in the last event of the season to do it, and I feel fine.
“I have tried to remember what I did last year and it seems to be working so far. I’ve spoken to my Dad briefly this week and he’s just reminded me what I do well and that’s all I needed. He doesn’t give me anything technical, it’s just letting me get out there playing golf.
“He knows the right things to say and when not to say anything. There are times when I’m pretty hard on myself and we’ve all been there as golfers, so he knows I’ve got to work it out myself and I like doing that. I can’t rely on him to solve every problem but I know I’m very lucky to have him there in the background if I need him.”
Jordi Garcia Pinto (70) of Spain and Chilean Mark Tullo (73), who are both already sure of their European Tour status next year, were two shots further back in a share of third place on five under while the final day is sure to be a tense one for some of those players outside the top four.
Lasse Jensen began the week in 19th position in the Rankings, but a four under par 68 has launched him right into contention to secure a return to The Race to Dubai next year, as he shares fifth place with a quartet of players on four under par.
That includes Englishman Robert Coles (70), for whom only a win or second place finish would do to secure a dream return to The European Tour, and Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer (69), who is also within touching distance of an eleventh hour leap into the top 15 as a thrilling final day looms in Dubai.
Dubai Golf Scores:
207 B Hebert (Fra) 70 69 68,
209 O Farr (Wal) 69 71 69,
211 M Tullo (Chi) 68 70 73, J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 72 69 70,
212 J Lando Casanova (Fra) 78 66 68, B Ritthammer (Ger) 72 71 69, A Hortal (Esp) 72 72 68, R Coles (Eng) 73 69 70, L Jensen (Den) 69 75 68,
213 A Tadini (Ita) 71 75 67, A Marshall (Eng) 71 70 72,
214 H Joannes (Bel) 74 71 69, A Johnston (Eng) 73 72 69, J Fahrbring (Swe) 71 71 72, E Espana (Fra) 70 68 76,
215 P Widegren (Swe) 74 73 68, B An (Kor) 72 71 72, C Bouniol (Fra) 78 68 69, B Evans (Eng) 72 73 70,
216 J Barnes (Eng) 71 73 72, W Harrold (Eng) 70 78 68,
217 T Linard (Fra) 79 69 69, M Orrin (Eng) 69 74 74, J Lagergren (Swe) 78 69 70,
218 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 74 71 73, P Oriol (Esp) 75 71 72, A Bernadet (Fra) 74 73 71, S Brown (Eng) 74 71 73,
219 D Gaunt (Eng) 76 73 70, S Hutsby (Eng) 76 74 69, A Velasco (Esp) 71 78 70,
221 P Edberg (Swe) 81 70 70, B Åkesson (Swe) 74 70 77, D Coupland (Eng) 71 76 74, S Henry (Sco) 76 72 73, A McArthur (Sco) 73 77 71,
222 J Roos (RSA) 73 69 80, C Shinkwin (Eng) 77 73 72, N Quintarelli (Ita) 74 75 73, M Lampert (Ger) 76 75 71, J Edfors (Swe) 76 70 76,
223 J Huldahl (Den) 76 74 73,
227 M Delpodio (Ita) 72 78 77,
231 J Palmer (Eng) 76 76 79
Source: European Tour