Hutsby still leads at Q-School

Sam Hutsby was still the man to catch after Tuesday’s 4th round of the final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School.

Sam Hutsby was still the man to catch after Tuesday’s fourth round in the six-round final stage of the European Tour’s annual Qualifying School

Hutsby, the runner-up here in 2009, shot a one-under par 71 at the PGA Catalunya Resort, in Spain, taking his tournament total to 16-under, putting him two shots clear of fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan and setting him on course to a return to Europe’s premier tour following a year on the Challenge Tour

South African Branden Grace, England’s David Dixon and Frenchman Victor Riu share third place on 13 under par as 70 players made the 4th round cut and qualified to play in the final two rounds.

On another day of perfect conditions in northern Spain, Hutsby got away to a galloping star with birdies at the first, third and fourth holes before bogeys at the sixth and tenth slowed him down.

He picked up shots at the 12th and 15th, but two more bogeys on his last three holes frustrated his finish.

“I got off to a great start and so did Andy [Sullivan],” the 23 year old told the media afterwards.

We were bouncing off each other early on and it looked like we were going to run away with it, which would have been nice. But there were some tough flags out there today, and I got a bit greedy and ended up paying the price.

“It’s disappointing not to have broken 70 again, because my goal was to shoot six rounds in the 60s. But I’m still in a great position, so if I can smooth out some of the rougher edges and cut out the silly mistakes, I should be there or thereabouts at the end.

As Hutsby did in 2009, Sullivan represented Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup this year, turning professional shortly after starring in the victory over the United States at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club in September.

On Tuesday he also endured a disappointing finish with a double-bogey six at the 18th, and said: “I got off to a flying start again, three under through three, then just stuttered a bit with a couple of poor drives.

“But I got it back again with a good fight back. I was happy with that.

“Then on the last a poor drive meant I dropped two shots but I’m in a great position going into the last two days, so there are loads of positives.

“I’m enjoying pro life at the moment and this week. Playing with Sam, who I know pretty well, has been really enjoyable. I think we are driving each other on a little bit – not that I’m paying too much attention to his game – but we are keeping each other going.

“I’ve not put any pressure on myself this week. I definitely haven’t set myself any expectations. I just want to go out there and give it my best shot and see where I finish. It is tough. A normal tournament is four rounds so we’d be finished by now. Physically it’s quite tiring, but you just have to keep going.”

Tuesday was also another solid day for Grace, who played on The European Tour in 2009 before losing his card. The 23-year-old had four birdies and two bogeys, but was disappointed not to make more progress.

“I’m feeling very good about my game but it was also a bit frustrating today, because the putts just didn’t want to drop,” he said.

“My putt on the last summed it up really – I barely missed a birdie putt from about eight feet, which was about the fourth missed putt from that range in the last six holes.

Frenchman Guillaume Cambis, who was joint winner at Costa Ballena in last week’s Second Stage, is one of five players at 12 under.

“I’m really, really exhausted,” Cambis exclaimed. “It has been a two long weeks. It’s my first time here so I’m happy to be up there, but it could have been better. I want to finish in the top ten this week, so if I play well I can do it. I need to concentrate for the 36 holes now because I’m really tired.”

The highlight of Tuesday was whisked up by Knut Borsheim who, remarkably, shot a hole-in-one for the second day running.

The Norwegian aced the 205-yard 14th on the Tour Course yesterday with a five iron, and used the same club to ace the 206-yard 16th on the Stadium Course today.

Borsheim is the first player to have posted two hole-in-ones in the same Qualifying School Final Stage and it might be a long, long time before they are captured on consecutive days with same club.

Tuesday’s four-under-par cut mark is the lowest 72-hole cut in the history of the Qualifying School.

Last year’s Final Stage winner Simon Wakefield was one of those unfortunates who missed out this year.

So was three-time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty.