New Zealand’s Ryan Fox hopes to use the pain of past near-misses to secure a maiden European Tour title after qualifying for the match play phase of the ISPS HANDA Super 6 Perth tournament for the first time.
Gusty south-westerly winds presented the 66 players who made the cut with the most challenging conditions of the week but it didn’t stop Sweden’s Per Langfors from posting the best round of the week, an 8-under 64 that propelled him to the top of the leaderboard through 54 holes, the first time he has made the cut in a European Tour event.
Other than guaranteeing passage through to the second round and a handy cheque for the European Tour rookie, however, it will count for little when he faces either New South Welshman Daniel Gale or Spain’s Adrian Otaegui in his first match at Lake Karrinyup on Sunday morning.
An 11-man playoff was required to determine who would fill the final 24 spots in the match play bracket with South Australian Wade Ormsby outlasting England’s Tom Murray at the second playoff hole.
Winner of a match play tournament in the Nordic League last year, Langfors began the third round tied for 48th but stormed into contention on the back of seven birdies and an eagle at the 302m par-4 14th.
After a 77 on Friday Norway’s Kristoffer Reitan recorded his second round of 65 for the week to finish tied for second along with Irishman Paul Dunne (66) and Queensland’s Brad Kennedy (69) with Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, tournament favourite Thomas Pieters and Kiwi pair Ryan Fox and Gareth Paddison rounding out the top eight players who receive a first round bye.
The winner of the match between Perth boy Min Woo Lee and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy will meet Pieters in the second round, the prospect of the tournament drawcard taking on the hometown 20-year-old a mouth-watering one.
Winner of the 2014 WA Open at nearby Cottesloe Golf CLub, Fox will play the winner of the match between Steven Jeffress and Thai sensation Jazz Janewattananond but after falling just short in each of the past two years is first and foremost happy to make it to Sunday.
Two years ago the 32-year-old missed out on advancing to the match play portion in a playoff and stumbled home 12 months ago to miss out by a shot, an even par round of 72 enough to safely finish inside the cut-line this time around.
“It’s certainly nice to be deep into the tournament now,” said Fox, whose best finish in a European Tour event to date is a playoff loss to Russell Knox in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last year.
“I had the heartbreak of missing out in the playoff the first year. I had a couple of great shots in the playoff and made a meal of things to miss out.
“The same last year, I made a meal of things the last couple of holes to miss out by a shot.
“I always enjoyed match play as an amateur – it’s been a long time since I’ve played it properly – but excited to get into it tomorrow.”
Seven Australians and three Kiwis have qualified for the six-hole knockout phase that will be played over Lake Karrinyup’s 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 18th holes.
Although some players who have qualified for the top-24 have limited recent match play experience there are a number who bring in positive memories from their amateur days in particular.
West Australian Matt Jager won the Australian Amateur at Lake Karrinyup in 2010, Syme was the 2016 Australian Amateur champ while MacIntyre was the 2015 Scottish Amateur winner and 2016 British Amateur runner-up.
Spain’s Adrian Otaegui also fancies his chances in the match play format having won the Belgian Knockout – hosted by Pieters himself – last April while Dunne represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup as an amateur.
In his Ryder Cup debut for Europe in 2016 Pieters banked a rookie-record four points for his team and has more than lived up to his top-billing status in Perth.
The 27-year-old shrugged off three bogeys and a double bogey at the par-5 3rd to shoot even par on Saturday and secure a place in the top eight, the prospect of a match-up with Min Woo Lee in the second round a promoter’s dream.
Twelve months after he advanced all the way to the quarter-finals as a teenage amateur, Lee’s bogey at the par-4 18th was all that prevented him from also finishing inside the top eight. But before he can take on Pieters he must first get past Bourdy, an experienced European Tour player with top-20 finishes at both the US Open and US PGA Championship on his resume.
“I guess it's good because you have a bit of momentum if you win,” Lee said of generating momentum with a win in his first match.
“And the guy that you're playing next knows that you won.
“I did well last year. I love this course so hopefully they're scared of me.”
Round 1 matches
7am: Daniel Gale v Adrian Otaegui. (Winner to play Per Langfors in Round 2)
7.08am: Min Woo Lee v Gregory Bourdy. (Winner to play Thomas Pieters)
7.16am: Ben Campbell v Clement Sordet. (Winner to play Brad Kennedy)
7.24am: Scott Vincent v Wade Ormsby. (Winner to play Yuta Ikeda)
7.32am: Matt Jager v Andrew Martin. (Winner to play Paul Dunne)
7.40am: Robert MacIntyre v Connor Syme. (Winner to play Gareth Paddison)
7.48am: Steven Jeffress v Jazz Janewattananond. (Winner to play Ryan Fox)
7.56am: Panuphol Pittayarat v Ben Evans. (Winner to play Kristoffer Reitan)
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