Second Stage, Third Day means first thing on the agenda is to avoid a nerve-tingling last day. Get your birdies early and cruise through the last day. That is certainly the case for 45-year-old Santiago Luna who is a massive seven shots in front at Arcos Gardens.
This veteran of the European Tour has struggled in recent seasons to maintain full playing privileges and has been a Q School visitor for each of the last four seasons. However, he is set to breeze into Final Stage of Q School, which starts next week in Catalunya. He shot his second 66 in three days to command the largest lead of any of this week’s tournaments.
A total of 78 players from the 309 who started Second Stage on Wednesday will progress and no one is in better form that the man from Madrid. Luna, who can boast that he once beat Tiger Woods in the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews, is on 15 under and leading two Englishmen, James Morrison and James Ruth tied on 8 under.
At Montenmedio, where I have been based all week, it is a Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti who is in control, three strokes ahead. His co-leader after two rounds, England’s Guy Woodman fell to tied 7th after his driver let him down during a score of 76. Guy who plays out of Stoke Park GC in Hertfordshire certainly deserves to reach Final Stage of Q School for the first time in his career, but he has given himself a few things to think about by drifting towards the cut mark. He starts day four on 5 under for the tournament with 1 under currently good enough to go through.
At Sherry Golf, Julien Guerrier of France continues to dominate and at Costa Ballena it is Jordi Garcia Pinto of Spain who has maintained his day two lead into day three.
Other notables are England and Bristol’s Chris Wood who had another flat kind of day, but still managed a two under par 70 at Montenmedio. Chris has not dominated this tournament like he did the First Stage event at The Oxfordshire (which he won) and is now only tied 15th along with four others.
Chris’s plight is that he cannot hole a putt to save his life this week on rather soft and lumpy greens and, although he’s keeping bogeys to a minimum (only one on day three), it’s hard to push into the more comfortable areas of the top 10 without beating par on a regular basis. Day four will be a test of temperament for this newly-minted pro and he is certainly good enough to come through with flying colours.
So tomorrow (day four) is the moment of truth as almost three quarters of the players will fail at Second Stage. And, for some, that failure will be particularly gruesome because only exact numbers of players will go forward; the dreaded playoffs loom for a few unlucky ones.
Playing hard all week and then losing your golfing future – for at least the next 12 months, anyway – in a playoff is not my idea of a happy Saturday night. So just remember that in Spain this weekend there will be some shoulders being cried on by some unfortunate golfers just as you are tuning into Strictly Come Dancing. Even Bruce Forsyth would struggle to find the funny side of that particular circumstance.
Click on the link for more on Ross’ book Golf On The Edge: Triumphs & Tragedies Of Q School