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Florian Fritsch is 18 holes away from securing a return to The European Tour as the German takes a two shot lead into the final round of the EMC Golf Challenge Open, his final tournament of the European Challenge Tour season.

While there are still four lucrative events to go after this week’s event at the beautiful Olgiata Golf Club in Rome, Fritsch will not travel to the Challenge Tour’s ‘Final Swing’ in China, Oman and Dubai due to his fear of flying so it is his last shot at earning enough money to graduate to The 2015 Race to Dubai.

The 28 year old, currently ninth in the Rankings, has shown nerves of steel thus far and he finished in style with a birdie at the tough par four 18th following another huge stroke of luck.

After gaining a lucky free drop beside a flower bed on day two in Italy, Fritsch hit a skewed drive at the final hole on the third day but his ball ricocheted off a tree and rolled out onto the tenth fairway with a perfect line into the pin.

He duly took advantage though, and hit a stunning four iron shot from 221 yards to just four feet before tapping home for a finishing birdie, a two under par 69, a second successive bogey-free round and a two-shot lead on seven under par.

“That was a real hard-working two under par round out there,” said Fritsch, who played on The European Tour in 2011 after earning his card through Qualifying School.

“It may look like an easier round than the second day but it definitely was not. It was a grind and I had a lot of par saves, especially with some difficult putts which were close but the wrong side of the holes.

“I got lucky too at the 11th, where I hit a low snapper from the tee which looked like it was going out of bounds and into someone’s back yard,  but it hit a tree and came back out, and then at the 18th I got a good bounce.

“I like to look at it like Mother Nature is on my side this week because as these tournaments go on day by day, and with the type of competitors out here who are capable of great scores, it’s nice to think things are going your way. But anything can happen tomorrow.

“My short game was really good today but if somebody puts in a charge, and that’s bound to happen with the standard of player here, I’m going to need my long game to improve tomorrow.

“I hit a great long iron into the 18th though so it was good to finish like that and feel confident going into the final day.”

Fritsch admits it will be a tough day mentally for him as he vies for a maiden Challenge Tour title and graduation to The European Tour but thinks the more he tries to take it seriously, the more negative an effect it may have on him.

“It’s going to be really difficult,” he said. “I’ve been in this kind of position in a tournament before but because it’s my last event of the season and what is at stake it’s really different. I can’t let thoughts of what might happen creep into my mind.

“I just need to try and do the same as every day. The more I try and prepare more professionally and take it more seriously, the more value I give to that round over other rounds and the more I’m likely to hit errant shots.

“This morning I hit a few balls on the range and then sat around in the clubhouse for maybe 40 minutes and then hit a few putts and that worked out pretty well so maybe I’ll just do the same tomorrow, just try and keep it relaxed.”

Certainly, there is no room for error with young Portuguese hotshot Ricardo Gouveia and experienced Frenchman Julien Guerrier just two shots back on five under after they both replicated the leader’s two under par third round.

Benjamin Hebert is still within touching distance of a third victory of the Challenge Tour season, which would earn automatic graduation to The European Tour, despite a one over par 72 which left the Frenchman in a share of third place alongside compatriot Alexandre Kaleka (71) and Italian Alessandro Tadini (69) on three under par.

Scores:

206 F Fritsch  (Ger) 70 67 69,
208 R Gouveia (Por) 68 71 69, J Guerrier  (Fra) 68 71 69,
210 B Hebert  (Fra) 71 67 72, A Kaleka  (Fra) 67 72 71, A Tadini (Ita) 70 71 69,
212 M Fitzpatrick  (Eng) 75 67 70, J Lando Casanova  (Fra) 70 71 71, M Delpodio  (Ita) 70 71 71, O Farr (Wal) 70 74 68, A Hortal  (Esp) 68 72 72,
213 P Edberg (Swe) 71 71 71, M Jonzon (Swe) 69 73 71, A Snobeck  (Fra) 75 71 67, E Espana (Fra) 68 73 72,
214 M Tullo (Chi) 70 73 71, R McEvoy  (Eng) 73 69 72, J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 74 70 70, P Price (Wal) 72 70 72, L Jensen (Den) 71 70 73, N Ravano (Ita) 70 76 68,
215 R Coles (Eng) 72 73 70, A Bruschi  (Ita) 74 67 74, D Ulrich (Sui) 73 74 68, C Ford (Eng) 72 73 70, P Widegren  (Swe) 74 70 71,
216 O Floren  (Swe) 73 70 73, A Marshall (Eng) 72 74 70, P Oriol (Esp) 74 72 70, D Coupland (Eng) 70 73 73, J Stalter (Fra) 72 75 69, C Brazillier  (Fra) 70 72 74, P Maddy (Eng) 71 71 74,
217 D Gaunt (Eng) 72 72 73, H Joannes  (Bel) 73 73 71, L Kennedy  (Eng) 72 74 71, T Sluiter  (Ned) 71 72 74, N Quintarelli (Ita) 71 72 74, J Huldahl (Den) 69 73 75, J Palmer (Eng) 68 77 72, M Ford (Eng) 73 73 71, T Linard (Fra) 69 76 72, J Sjöholm (Swe) 72 72 73,
218 J Fahrbring (Swe) 75 72 71, D Kemmer (USA) 75 72 71, J Edfors (Swe) 74 71 73, C Hanson (Eng) 74 71 73,
219 M Lafeber (Ned) 72 71 76, P Erofejeff (Fin) 75 70 74, M Wiegele  (Aut) 80 66 73, A Velasco (Esp) 72 75 72, A Rota (Ita) 74 71 74,
220 J Elson  (Eng) 71 74 75, P Relecom  (Bel) 73 74 73,
221 R Russell (Sco) 73 72 76, T Pulkkanen  (Fin) 74 70 77, S Henry  (Sco) 75 68 78, K Benz (Sui) 75 70 76,
222 S Little (Eng) 68 79 75, M Cea (am) (Ita) 77 68 77,
223 M Dobias  (Sui) 70 74 79,
224 J Barnes (Eng) 74 72 78, W Besseling  (Ned) 75 72 77, B Åkesson (Swe) 76 70 78

Source: European Tour

Author

Graham J Gordon, The Editor and Owner, GolfblogspotUK

The GolfblogspotUK website is owned and run by former Walker Cup player and European Tour card holder, Graham J Gordon, from Scotland, the Home of Golf. The owner is a golf fanatic who had to retire early from competitive tour play due to a back injury that required surgery. Graham wishes to share his knowledge and own experiences of the game with the GolfblogspotUK community and to receive your feedback on all aspects of the sport. Graham has been playing the game for over 20 years and received a great deal of pleasure from the sport. He has met several friends and visited many different places around the world, thanks to playing the great game of golf. Time to put a little back into the game to help others.

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