Englishman Max Orrin (pictured by Phil Inglis) described it as the best round of his life as the former Walker Cup player moved into a share of the lead with Korea’s Byeong-hun An at the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic courtesy of a stunning four under third round 68 in extremely testing conditions.
The 20 year old was one of just six players to card an under par round as the huge winds took their toll on moving day at the picturesque Almouj Golf, The Wave.
He managed to carve out a three under par front nine before the gusts really began to blow but his one under par back nine was arguably the more impressive as he signed for the only bogey-free round of the day to move to the top on six under par.
The ecstatic Kent player could not find enough superlatives for his round and admitted that playing alongside Jason Palmer, his compatriot who won The Foshan Open on the Challenge Tour last week, was a big factor in his elevation to the summit of the leaderboard.
“It’s difficult to put it in words,” said Orrin, who currently lies in 68th position in the Challenge Tour Rankings and is chasing a big result to earn a place in the season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club.
“It’s the best round I’ve ever had. I knew that you needed to get under par early on and then protect it for your life. It was just a battle.
“Every time you get on the tee you’re just praying you keep it straight, it is scary. At the 18th all I could think about was, ‘will I make the carry over the sea’? It was 160 yards with the wind but you’re thinking, if the wind picks up any more what am I going to do?
“Some of those pars were gold dust and they were probably better than the birdies I made downwind. I was never really in that much trouble. I made a couple of up and downs but the par putts were never long, they were all inside five feet.
“Jason was amazing to play with, he kept me going. He was playing well himself and just didn’t quite hole the putts. But I think it’s the best day I’ve had in my career.
“I played with Jason the first week in China and he’s such a great guy. When someone you know quite well wins, it boosts you and you want to do better because you know it can be done.
“I’ve been speaking to my coach and he said I had a low one coming. Today, it feels like I’ve shot a 60 but it’s a 68. The first two weeks in China I played well but didn’t hole putts and if you don’t do that you don’t move up. Today luckily I holed a few.
“You never go into a week thinking you’re going to win, it’s just about being there on the back nine on Sunday with a chance and hopefully I can do that. I’m not thinking too much about the win but it would be amazing if I could do that.”
An, meanwhile, held firm at the top having entered the weekend in a share of the lead with Spaniard Pedro Oriol, the 23 year old recording a one over par 73.
While the former US Amateur Champion had moved into a two-shot lead on nine under par at one point, he was just happy that his title challenge was not blown off course by the extremely tough conditions and is looking forward to competing for a second title of the season.
“It was pretty tough out there,” said the 2014 Rolex Trophy champion. “I was hitting it really well but I knew it was going to be tough on the last couple of holes. It was straight into the wind coming in, and it was blowing about 30 miles per hour but it felt like 50.
“I had plenty of chances out there and left a couple short so I didn’t putt great but it’s difficult to read them out there when the wind is so strong so I’m not too disappointed.
“I don’t mind the wind, it’s not just for me, it’s for everyone and it really tests your skills so it won’t matter to me if it blows tomorrow.
“I feel confident as long as I play like I did today, I’ll be right in the mix if I can do that. I’m not thinking about a win right now. My goal is definitely to get to Number One in the Rankings but I know it’s not going to be easy.”
Mark Tullo shot the lowest round of the day, signing for an impressive six under par 66 having teed off in tamer conditions earlier in the morning.
The Chilean, who has already secured his playing status on The European Tour next year having already amassed €107,093 in the Challenge Tour Rankings, lay two shots off the pace in outright third place on four under par, while Scot Andrew McArthur (73) was a shot further back on three under.
210 M Orrin (Eng) 71 71 68, B An (Kor) 72 65 73,
212 M Tullo (Chi) 73 73 66,
213 A McArthur (Sco) 69 71 73,
215 J Palmer (Eng) 69 72 74,
216 P Widegren (Swe) 70 69 77, L Jensen (Den) 66 73 77, N Quintarelli (Ita) 72 71 73, P Edberg (Swe) 69 70 77, B Ritthammer (Ger) 70 71 75,
217 O Stark (Swe) 73 72 72, J Barnes (Eng) 65 75 77, D Coupland (Eng) 73 72 72, P Maddy (Eng) 70 71 76, O Farr (Wal) 73 71 73, N Ravano (Ita) 71 71 75, G Murray (Sco) 70 73 74, C Hanson (Eng) 70 73 74, M Lafeber (Ned) 71 72 74,
218 J Fahrbring (Swe) 73 74 71, M Jonzon (Swe) 74 69 75, B Åkesson (Swe) 73 75 70, S Henry (Sco) 70 77 71, R Coles (Eng) 75 68 75,
219 C Paisley (Eng) 69 77 73, M Delpodio (Ita) 72 74 73, B Hebert (Fra) 73 75 71, E Espana (Fra) 73 73 73, W Harrold (Eng) 73 70 76, J Stalter (Fra) 74 73 72, A Bernadet (Fra) 74 73 72,
220 J Guerrier (Fra) 74 73 73, D Gaunt (Eng) 72 75 73, R Gouveia (Por) 69 76 75, J Huldahl (Den) 77 71 72, A Tadini (Ita) 73 74 73, N Dougherty (Eng) 74 70 76, T Sluiter (Ned) 71 70 79, P Oriol (Esp) 69 68 83, S Hutsby (Eng) 72 73 75, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 73 73 74,
221 J Winther (Den) 75 73 73, J Sjöholm (Swe) 70 76 75, J Edfors (Swe) 74 73 74, A Hortal (Esp) 76 69 76, R Kind (Ned) 71 71 79, R Davies (Wal) 71 73 77, L Kennedy (Eng) 72 76 73,
222 T Linard (Fra) 74 73 75, J Rask (Swe) 72 74 76, J Roos (RSA) 73 72 77,
223 A Björk (Swe) 75 73 75, P Relecom (Bel) 72 76 75, P Figueiredo (Por) 70 75 78,
224 C Ford (Eng) 72 74 78, C McDonnell (Eng) 70 74 80, A Rota (Ita) 75 72 77,
225 G Shaw (Nir) 68 79 78, M Lampert (Ger) 74 74 77,
226 S Brown (Eng) 74 74 78, T Murray (Eng) 73 75 78,
227 W Booth (Sco) 71 73 83,
228 N Lemke (Swe) 75 72 81
Source: European Tour