Alberto Binaghi and Mark Foster, two players with differing agendas, shared the lead after the third round of the San Paolo Vita & Asset Management Open at Margara in Italy.
Home favourite Binaghi carded a flawless 65 for a 17 under par aggregate of 199, a total matched later by Foster, the current leader of the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, who was similarly error-free for his 67.
Binaghi used his local knowledge to good effect and would notch a hat-trick of victories in the event if he was to finish on top after round four, having won the tournament in both 1989 and 1999.
But, more importantly, picking up the 20,830 euro first prize would guarantee the 36 year old from Milan a return to full playing privileges on The European Tour after a hiatus of three years.
“I pleased with the way I played today but I will have to keep it going for the final round because as you can see the scoring is pretty low and I’m sure it will be the same tomorrow,” he said.
“In the past when I have been in the position to win I have perhaps concentrated too much on not making any mistakes instead of just focussing on what I have been doing over the previous three days and trying to do the same again – so that is what I will try to do this time.”
Binaghi will be cheered on by his many friends in the surrounding area and he admitted it would mean that little bit extra to notch victory in front of his own people. But he will have a tough adversary in Foster.
The 26 year old from Worksop has already won twice this season on his way to the top of the Challenge Tour rankings and, although unlike Binaghi, he knows his card for the 2002 European Tour is already in the bag, he admitted he wanted to win just as deeply.
“Getting into the habit of winning is a good thing and it is something I want to try and keep doing,” said Foster, who got his third round off to the perfect start with birdies at the first and second holes before notching further gains at the eighth, 13th and 14th.
“I know my card is safe but I have been having a bit of a personal duel with Jamie Donaldson (currently number two in the rankings, but who missed the cut) so tomorrow is a good chance to further stake my claim to be Number One at the end of the season.
“I played solid today and I made a lot of chances and didn’t take them. But, to be fair, I did hole a couple of 30 footers for birdie on the first and the 13th, so these things tend to even themselves out.”
Closest to the leaders is Australian Peter Fowler, the winner of the 1993 BMW International Open, who matched Binaghi’s 65 to finish one shot behind the leading duo on 16 under par 200.
One shot behind the Antipodean, two Swedes ended the day on 15 under the card, Peter Malmgren who posted a 68, and Klas Eriksson, the first round leader after a 64, who returned a third round 67.