Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon finished a long and taxing day in Ascona by sitting on top of the leaderboard after three rounds of the Credit Suisse Private Banking Open.
After a rain-hit Friday, Hutcheon was up before dawn and on the course at 7.30am to complete three holes of his second round for a one-under-par 70. It left him four strokes off the pace but a blistering third round 64 hoisted him into the lead on 13-under-par 200.
The 28-year-old Aberdonian is a stroke clear of Sweden's Pehr Magnebrant, Kalle Vainola from Finland and South African Ashley Roestoff.
Hutcheon kept a bogey off his card as he ran in seven birdies and having lost his tour card last autumn, will be keen in Sunday’s final round to stay ahead and collect his second Challenge Tour title.
Magnebrant also found his way to seven birdies but a bogey-four at the short second saw him return a superb 65 including an inward 30.
Vainola also dropped a shot at the second in a 66, but the 29-year-old Finn, who has been in the doldrums for some time, eagled the fourth and sixth on his way to the turn in 31. Two birdies came on the back nine and he would have been leading the field but for suffering a double-bogey six at the last.
Roestoff, winner of the Tusker Kenya Open in March, shot 67 to climb into second spot, a stark contrast to last Sunday when he was disqualified in Italy for signing for a wrong score.
Londoner Gary Clark, who led after the first round with 63 and took 10 more shots to complete round two, bounced back with a bogey-free 66 to lie fifth.
But it wasn’t a good day for overnight leader Lee James. The Dorset man slipped back with 72 for 204 and joint eighth place alongside Frenchman Pascal Edmond.
Scotland’s Euan Little was another on the slide. After two rounds of 68 to start the third round in joint eighth place, the Stranraer man crashed to a 75 for 211, two under par, and down to joint 46th. Little was out in 35 but came back in 40, dropping five shots in the last eight holes.
As the rain that plagued the tournament over the first two days relented, scoring improved with Spain’s Ivo Giner, Olivier David from France and Kariem Baraka from Germany also returning 66.