Dermot McElroy has Irish Challenge victory in his sights

Ballymena man leads by one with Cameron Raymond and Tom McKibbin in top-10

Dermot McElroy tees off on the 16th hole during day three of the Irish Challenge at Portmarnock Links. Photo: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

Dermot McElroy tees off on the 16th hole during day three of the Irish Challenge at Portmarnock Links. Photo: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images

 

Three birdies in his final four holes at Portmarnock Links ensured that Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Irish Challenge.

The 27-year-old made the most of the more benign conditions on Saturday to sign for a round of 67 and a total of eight under par, one shot ahead of Spanish duo Eduard Rousaud – who shot the best round of the day with a 66 – and Alfredo Garcia-Heredia.

With a strong home contingent at the Challenge Tour event, Tom McKibbin will go into the final round at three under after a 69 while Dubliner Cameron Raymond matched that to sit in the tie for eighth at two under.

Michael Hoey is a shot further back at one under with Paul McBride and Stuart Grehan at one over, Gavin Moynihan at two over, James Sugrue three over, Conor O’Rourke at four over and Simon Thornton six over.

However, on Saturday all eyes were on McElroy. Playing the majority of his golf on the EuroPro Tour over the last few years, a Challenge Tour victory would be a huge boost for the 27-year-old who captured the West of Ireland Championship during his amateur days.

On Saturday he dropped a shot on the Par 4 fifth but immediately made amends with two birdies in a row. Another bogey at the 10th dropped him back to level par for the day but then he turned on the style by reeling off birdies at the 11th, 15th and 16th and topped it off with a sixth birdie of the day at the closing hole.

Five shots back is 18-year-old McKibbin who on Friday made his first cut as a professional and is now looking at sealing a top-10 finish or, perhaps, even better. Birdies at the sixth, seventh, eighth and 11th saw the Holywood man shoot up the leaderboard before dropped shots at the 14th and 16th.

For Raymond – who plays out of St Anne’s just down the coast from Portmarnock – it was a more topsy-turvy round when early birdies at the first, sixth and eighth were stunted by bogeys at the seventh, ninth and 14th.

However, the 22-year-old rallied to a strong finish with back-to-back birdies at the 15th and 16th to sign for a 69.

On the European Tour, Bernd Wiesberger will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Made in Himmerland as the defending champion seeks a wire-to-wire victory in Denmark.

The Austrian carded a three-under-par 68 to reach 14 under for the week in Farso, one ahead of Sweden’s Alexander Bjork.

Bjork compiled a 66 on Saturday, with England’s Laurie Canter third on 11 under after surging through the field with a seven-under 64.

In a tie for 14th at eight under is Jonathan Caldwell who dropped just one shot – at the 18th – on his way to a round of 67.

Wiesberger, who won this event in 2019 before last year’s event was called off amid the coronavirus pandemic, went to the turn in 36 with birdies at the second and eighth cancelled out by bogeys on the sixth and ninth.

However, the 35-year-old — a seven-time European Tour winner — found his touch on the back nine with four birdies in eight holes.

Birdies at the 10th, 12th and 14th were followed by a pitch to three feet on the 17th, although Wiesberger did three-putt the last to drop a shot.

England’s Richard Bland, who at 48 became the European Tour’s oldest first-time winner at the Belfry two weeks ago, is four shots off the pace in a tie for fourth following a 66.

After his round, world number 65 Wiesberger criticised the decision to move the tee back on the 18th and place the pin on the narrowest section of the green between water and a bunker.

“In combination with the flag I don’t think it’s a good decision (to move the tee back),” Wiesberger told Sky Sports Golf.

“We have to move the tee box up for the first two rounds because the fairways are so soft and that’s a great pin for that.

“I had a great drive and was between five and six-iron, so I don’t really agree with what they did there on the last but it’s the same for everyone and I made three putts unfortunately.”

Irish Challenge leading first round scores (Portmarnock Links, Co Dublin, Par 71, Irish in bold)

205 Dermot McElroy 70 68 67

206 Eduard Rousaud (Esp) 71 69 66 Alfredo Garcia-Heredia (Esp) 64 73 69

208 Daan Huizing (Ned) 71 69 68 Borja Virto (Esp) 68 71 69

210 Tom McKibbin 68 73 69, Gary King (Eng) 67 69 74

211 Ricardo Gouveia (Por) 72 71 68, Matteo Manassero (Ita) 74 69 68, Julien Brun (Fra) 71 72 68, Cameron Raymond 68 74 69, Alexander Knappe (Ger) 70 72 69, Yannik Paul (Ger) 69 71 71

Other Irish scores

212 Michael Hoey 71 71 70

214 Paul McBride 73 72 69, Stuart Grehan 71 73 70

215 Gavin Moynihan 75 71 69

216 James Sugrue 72 74 70

217 Conor O’Rourke 72 73 72

219 Simon Thornton 74 71 74

Third round scores from Made in HammerLand (British unless stated, Par 71)

199 Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 66 65 68

200 Alexander Bjork (Swe) 71 63 66

202 Laurie Canter 67 71 64

203 Richard Bland 66 69 68, Kurt Kitayama (USA) 71 68 64, Matthias Schwab (Aut) 67 66 70, Jason Scrivener (Aus) 70 67 66, Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn) 68 67 68, Josh Geary (Nzl) 69 66 68

204 Joost Luiten (Ned) 68 70 66, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 70 69 65, Niklas Noergaard Moller (Den) 69 67 68, Jordan Smith 70 67 67

205 Stephen Gallacher 71 64 70, Guido Migliozzi (Ita) 69 68 68, Joakim Lagergren (Swe) 73 63 69, David Horsey 71 68 66, Julien Guerrier (Fra) 69 68 68, Marcus Armitage 70 69 66, Jonathan Caldwell (NIrl) 67 71 67, Dale Whitnell 68 68 69, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (Tha) 70 69 66, Dimitrios Papadatos (Aus) 67 71 67

206 Thorbjoern Olesen (Den) 68 70 68, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 66 69 71, Steven Brown 69 71 66, Eddie Pepperell 72 67 67, Ashun Wu (Chn) 68 68 70, Romain Langasque (Fra) 69 68 69, David Law 68 71 67, John Axelsen (Den) 68 69 69, Ross Fisher 68 70 68, Sebastian Garcia (Spa) 71 66 69, Max Schmitt (Ger) 70 66 70

207 Nino Bertasio (Ita) 68 72 67, Tapio Pulkkanen (Fin) 72 67 68, Matthieu Pavon (Fra) 71 66 70, Wil Besseling (Ned) 68 69 70

208 Thomas Detry (Bel) 71 67 70, Calum Hill 71 67 70, Nicolai Hojgaard (Den) 71 68 69

209 Jorge Campillo (Spa) 71 68 70, Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 69 71 69, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 71 69 69, Robert MacIntyre 69 70 70, Andy Sullivan 73 66 70, Min-Woo Lee (Aus) 71 69 69, Adria Arnaus (Spa) 72 68 69, Chris Paisley 69 69 71, Jeff Winther (Den) 71 68 70, Haydn Porteous (Rsa) 69 68 72

210 Thomas Bjorn (Den) 74 66 70, Peter Launer Baek (Den) 70 70 70, Michael Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 71 68 71, Pedro Figueiredo (Por) 71 66 73, Eduardo de la Riva (Spa) 70 70 70, Jarryd Felton (Aus) 70 67 73

211 Sebastian Soederberg (Swe) 75 65 71, Renato Paratore (Ita) 69 71 71, Lauri Ruuska (Fin) 66 71 74, Marcus Helligkilde (Den) 71 69 71, Soeren Kjeldsen (Den) 69 71 71, Adrian Meronk (Pol) 72 66 73, Oliver Farr 68 70 73, Garrick Porteous 71 68 72

212 Brandon Stone (Rsa) 73 66 73, Lorenzo Gagli (Ita) 74 66 72

213 Alexander Levy (Fra) 69 69 75, Adrian Otaegui (Spa) 70 70 73, Yikeun Chang (Kor) 66 72 75

214 Callum Shinkwin 69 71 74, Matthiam Keyser (Rsa) 73 64 77

215 Alejandro Del Rey (Spa) 72 66 77

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