Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon goes into the final round of the Charles Church Challenge Tour Championship with a one-shot lead and hoping this will prove a happy omen for his second tour victory.
The 29 year old from Aberdeen carded a third round 68 for 205, 11 under par, to edge in front of Irishman Gary Murphy and two clear of the English pair of John Morgan and Andrew Sherborne.
The last occasion Hutcheon led going into the final round was in Switzerland last year when he was one clear and went on to take the title.
With his girlfriend Susan looking on, Hutcheon began in great style with birdies at the first two holes, rolling in putts of 20 feet on both greens. With overnight leader John Morgan dropping a shot at the first, Hutcheon had cancelled the deficit and was on terms with the Bristol-based Englishman.
Although Hutcheon was in the match ahead, they were to trade blows all afternoon with the Scot coming out on top in the end.
A bogey-five at the seventh, where he got a flier with a seven iron from the rough, was Hutcheon's only dropped shot as he reached the turn in 35. But a two-putt birdie from 15 feet at the long tenth repaired the damage, while he picked up further shots at the 15th and 16th, the latter giving him the overall lead.
"I got off to a great start and was off and running from that," he said. "My putting was steady again but I got a great break at the seventh when my approach had out of bounds written all over it.
"Hopefully, I can take advantage of my position in the final round and that it will be Switzerland all over again."
Murphy, who is looking for his maiden tour victory, compiled an equal best-of-the-day 66. Despite a bogey-four at the tricky 217 yard second hole where his four iron found a greenside bunker, Murphy ran in seven birdies, covering both nines in 33.
"I played lovely and holed a few putts," said Murphy modestly. "I was disappointed with 73 yesterday but this gets me right back into it. I've led at some stage in a lot of tournaments this year, now I've got to finish it off."
Murphy was in great form on the greens, holing at least four birdie putts from 12 feet and over. He gave much of credit to his local caddie, 13-year-old Matthew Swales, the Bowood club champion, who plays off a handicap of five.
"Matt reads the putts far better than I do and he's been spot on," added Murphy. "I shall leave them to him again tomorrow."
Being local men, both Morgan and Sherborne drew the largest support and Sherborne gave them plenty to cheer with six birdies in his 67.
"The aim today was to get back into contention and have a chance of victory tomorrow," he said. "Curiously, I've never played well at Bowood so this was a welcome change and I missed chances from ten and 12 feet on the final two greens."
But Morgan struggled with his game, failing to find the form of the first two days that took him ahead. “It wasn’t a good day,” he said. “My shots kept running through the fairway or into rough beside the greens. But I’m still in contention and I feel better being behind. It means I’ve got a challenge while it is difficult when you are out in front.”
England’s Philip Archer and Jean-Francois Lucquin from France both returned 68 to share fifth place on 209, seven under par, while among those on 210 is young Irishman Graeme McDowell.
To top off a great day for the Irish, the Walker Cup man signed for a 66 with an eagle and five birdies despite struggling to find his game over the opening holes. However, put his upward climb down to a gift from fellow Ulsterman Darren Clarke.
"Darren gave me an Odyssey putter on Monday at Gleneagles and I used it for the first time today," said McDowell. "It's similar to the one I've been using but it worked and brought me my lowest Challenge Tour return."
But it wasn’t a good day for England’s David Geall and Titch Moore from South Africa. Geall, joint second at the start of play, slipped back with 76, while the big-hitting Moore got to eight under through ten holes only to spill four strokes in the closing spell for a 73.