Having birdied his final hole to make the cut on Friday, Stuart Grehan took full advantage by firing a moving-day 69 to climb to T22 where he sits alongside Dermot McElroy at level-par.
Needing a top-10 finish to earn his place in next week’s D+D Real Czech Challenge in Prague, the Tullamore man had nothing to lose after his anxious wait to see if +3 would make the cut paid dividends, and with the wind making scoring tricky once again, Grehan knew that a round in the sixties would give him a chance to play his way into the next event.
Playing in the second group, he’d par the first five before making his first birdie of the day at the par-4 sixth, but he’d immediately give the shot back on the next, but another birdie at nine saw him reach the turn at -1.
Further birdies at 11 and 17 took him to -3 for the day as he’d go blemish free on the back-nine, signing for a 69 that would see him jump 37 places on the leaderboard.
McElroy began the day best of the Irish at -1, and three birdies to one bogey on the front nine had him on the first page of the leaderboard before a costly stretch on the back nine killed the momentum.
A double-bogey at 11 was followed by a bogey at 12, and he’d add two more back-to-back on 15 and 16 to move to +3 for the day. To his credit, he rebounded with birdies at both 17 and 18 to get back to +1 for the day and level-par for the tournament.
Paul Dunne and Niall Kearney found the going a little tougher today, with Dunne’s 77 and Kearney’s 76 leaving them on +6 and +7 respectively.
Matias Honkala will take a six-shot lead into the final round as he goes in search of a maiden European Challenge Tour title.
The Finn, whose best result on the circuit was a share of third place at the 2021 Euram Bank Open, is 18 holes away from claiming his first win on the Tour after carding a third round of 67 to move to 12 under par, with Italians Matteo Manassero and Andrea Pavan, who share six DP World Tour wins between them, in second place alongside Casey Jarvis of South Africa.
-3 is good for a T7 at the 54-hole mark, meaning if Grehan can match today’s round he has every chance of claiming a top-10 finish.
With the chance to become the ninth first-time winner on the Challenge Tour this season, Honkala is aiming to remain calm and focus on his game.
“I can’t say I won’t think about tomorrow and potentially winning, but it’s going to be a fight that’s for sure,” he said.
“I made a birdie on number two and that settled my nerves a little bit. There wasn’t a point during today that I felt really comfortable with my game, but I kept going and managed to shoot a good round.
“I hit some good iron shots on seven and eight and made a couple of easy birdies there. But I wouldn’t say there was anything particularly special today. My driver wasn’t the best today and I didn’t hit too many fairways but kept the ball in play – I wasn’t in any problems.
“It’s been really tricky over the last two days with the conditions. It was really windy yesterday, but it was much nicer weather to play in today.”