Damien McGrane extended his lead in the co-sanctioned Formby Hall Challenge on Merseyside despite course record 64s from Gary Clark and Sam Little. McGrane, who began the day two clear, went round in 70 for 203, 13 under par, to finish three shots ahead of Clark and four in front of Little, Paul Sherman and Grant Hamerton.
As the gusting winds of Friday gave way to more amenable conditions, McGrane had five birdies and three bogeys, saying: "I was plagued on the greens. I couldn't buy a putt. I had lot of chances from between 10 and 15 feet but wasn't sinking any of them. But I'm three ahead with a round left so it's a good position."
McGrane had set a course record with 65 on Thursday, but that effort paled alongside Clark and Little. The latter, who turned 26 on Friday, celebrated with an eagle and eight birdies in his 64, making his score by covering the last four holes in four under par. "The last four holes turned a good round into a great one," he said.
“I had a 63 a few years ago and I shot 66 last week in Sweden, but I didn’t feel I struck the ball as well today.”
Minutes later, Clark posted his own 64 with an eagle and nine birdies. But it was his back nine that was most impressive as he came home in an eight under par 29.
"I was holing everything," said the 30 year old Londoner. "I've never had a better stretch of holes in tournament play, it was ridiculous. My playing partner, Sam Walker, was just looking at me in disbelief. You don't have to play that well to shoot a low score when you holes putts like I did."
Little shares third place with Sherman and Hamerton, who both went round in 70, but Lee Thompson, two shots behind McGrane overnight, suffered with 74, which included four birdies and six bogeys. It leaves him in eighth place on 209, six strokes off the pace.
Before Little and Clark performed their fireworks, David Dixon, the England international who won the silver medal as leading amateur at this year’s Open Championship, carded a 66, his lowest round of his short professional career.
After surviving the cut on the one over par limit, he also made his score over the back nine, coming home in 31 with six birdies. “I played solid on the front nine but didn’t hole any putts,” he said. “But my coach, Peter Green, watched me yesterday and spotted something which I put right today. My chipping and putting made the difference and everything came together.”
Dixon is equal 13th on 211, but Tom Whitehouse, the lone amateur in the field, finished on 210 after a 68. The England boy international ran in six birdies and only suffered one blip with a double bogey seven at the long 14th.