Purcell hoping for sizzling Sunday as Elvira roars clear

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Conor Purcell (Photo by Johan Rynners/Getty Images)

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Conor Purcell will be aiming for a low Sunday at the Soudal Open after he was unable to make a move in Belgium.

Purcell carded a level par 71 to remain on three under par which is fifteen shots behind Nacho Elvira who holds a commanding four shot lead.

The Spaniard started the week with back-to-back bogey-free rounds of 64 at Rinkven International Golf Club and while he could not quite maintain that pace on day three, carding a 67 containing his first dropped shots of the week, he will take the joint largest 54-hole lead of the season into Sunday at 18 under.

English duo Joe Dean and Ross Fisher, Frenchman Romain Langasque and Dane Niklas Nørgaard were the nearest challengers, a shot clear of another Englishman in Andrew Wilson.

Elvira entered the final round of the Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale in 2021 with a six-shot advantage but needed a play-off to claim his maiden title and will be hoping to avoid such drama in Antwerp.

He has missed just one cut by a single shot in 2024, securing a tie for second at the Magical Kenya Open in February as he enjoys a new-found consistency in his game.

He will now be hoping he can turn that into a win at a course where he feels comfortable having finished in the top ten two years ago.

“I started pretty solid with three birdies in a row,” he said of his 67. “Hitting the ball well and quite in control. At the end of the day I was maybe a little bit tired and started swinging it worse than in the beginning but I managed to save a couple of pars and make a couple of birdies.

“My approach game this week has been fantastic. I’m also putting really well so that helps. As long as I can hit it pretty straight off the tee I think I can make myself a lot of opportunities.”

He added: “I was leading by six then (at the 2021 Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale), I’m leading by four. I could have taken three or four more just to be relaxed but this game is funny sometimes. I can not hit it as good as I want and be leading by four, it’s just a weird game. I learned a lot about being patient that day so hopefully I can take that into tomorrow.”

Elvira got off to a flying start, hitting irons to around five feet at the first and second and with Fisher failing to get up and down on the second, the lead was quickly up to four.

An approach to 13 feet at the third meant the advantage was up to five shots but Langasque was trying to keep pace, holing lengthy putts at the second and sixth either side of a smart second into the fourth.

When Langasque found the trees off the seventh tee, the lead went back to four and further bogeys at the tenth and 13th saw him fall back to where he started the day.

Fisher had holed a 30-footer on the fourth and joined the leader in almost chipping in after driving up to the side of the green at the par-four eighth but a three-putt on the next meant Elvira led by five at the turn.

With Fisher and Langasque treading water, the door was open to the chasing pack to move up the leaderboard and Dean was the man on the move.

He got up and down on the first after almost driving the par four and then made a birdie from the sand on the fifth before adding another from 14 feet on the eighth.

A dropped shot came on the ninth but he chipped in on the 13th and 14th and put his tee-shot to six feet on the next to get to 14 under with a 66.

Elvira saw his lead cut to three with a first bogey of the week on the 13th as he left a chip in the rough but he hit straight back with an approach to seven feet on the next.

Wilson was now the only player bogey-free and he moved to 13 under as he got up and down from the sand on the fifth, left himself a tap-in on the 11th and holed a 20-footer on the 14th en route to a 68.

That, however, was a shot behind playing partner Norgaard who turned in level par but then chipped in at the tenth, left himself a short putt on the 11th, holed from 46 feet on the 13th and took advantage of the short 16th after almost driving the par four to card a 67.

Elvira made a birdie on the 17th after laying up to briefly extend his lead back to five but he gave the shot straight back on the last after his tee-shot found a tree root, with the 37-year-old looking in some discomfort with his wrist after playing his recovery.

Langasque enjoyed a birdie-birdie-birdie finish in his 68, playing a beautiful pitch on the 16th, getting up and down on the next and holing from 13 feet on the last, with Fisher picking up a closing gain from 17 feet in his 70.

Spaniard Sebastian Garcia and local favourite Thomas Pieters were six shots off the lead, one clear of a group of nine players including Ryder Cup Captain Luke Donald.

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