Carlos Larrain maintained his grip on the Sigura Viudas Challenge de Espana at Villamartin despite briefly losing the lead to Euan Little. But at the end of the day Larrain’s third successive 69 was good enough to secure a two-shot advantage over the Scot.
Venezuelan Larrain, seeking his first Challenge Tour title, ran in five birdies, three in a sparkling back nine that ensured he stayed out in front.
“I played the front nine OK but my back nine was sensational,” he said. “I think I’ve played the same each day but today my thinking was better. I’m trying to use my head more on certain shots and today I took some good decisions.
“The key was to adapt to the wind which wasn’t quite as strong as on previous days. For instance, on the 188m sixth today I hit eight iron whereas on day one it was a five iron. The pin positions were also harder today.”
Not that Little would agree after his explosive start, which saw him briefly, overtake Larrain. The 24-year-old Scot, who began the day three strokes off the pace, began eagle-par-birdie-birdie-birdie and seemed set to record to low round of the week.
But the euphoria was brief. Little ran into a double-bogey five at the short sixth and eventually had to settle for a 68 which leaves him on seven-under-par 209, two shots behind Larrain.
"I started on fire," said Little. "It was real fun at the beginning, but then I three-putted the sixth and to finish with 68 after that start was disappointing."
Never the less, he has improved with every round in Spain and a similar return in today's final round would give him a great chance of chalking up his first win.
After going out in 33, Little dropped another shot at the 10th, but responded with birdies at the 11th, 12th and 14th, holing from 12 feet at the latter two holes, before three-putting the 16th for another bogey.
Sharing third place on 210 are four players, Ricardo Jimenez from Spain, Frenchman Jean-Francois Lucquin, Denmark’s Thomas Norret, all of whom returned 68, and Andre Bossert from Switzerland with 69.
Jimenez said: “I hit 17 greens in regulation and that’s why I’ve had such a good score. It was a pity about the back nine, which I played well and had four or five birdie chances. But they didn’t go in.”
Norret, another who has threatened to win a tournament but never quite made it, said: “I played well but got tired towards the end. Maybe I was a little nervous because I dropped shots at the 15th and 17th.”
Bossert, the 37-year-old wily campaigner, commented: “I was not so happy with the way I played today but I’m happy with my score. I hit the ball very average but I can’t complain. I’m still in with a chance.”
Although the wind was not as strong as on the first two days, several players lost ground and will need a low final round to get back in to contention
England’s Stuart Little, who went into the round one behind Larrain, slipped back with a 74 for joint 11th on 213, while Spain’s Jose Rozadilla returned 73 for 214.
Mark Foster, who won the previous event in Zambia, is on the same mark after a 72, while Finland’s Mikael Piltz, third at the halfway mark, shot 76 for 216.
Another Englishman, Iain Pyman, joint leader after round one, slumped to the back of the field on 220 after a 77.