Benn Barham turned a three shot deficit into a three stroke lead going into the final round of the BMW Russian Open at Moscow Country Club. Barham who trailed playing partner, Iain Pyman at the start of play, carded a third round 65 for 197, 19 under par, while Pyman went round in 71 for 200.
The day proved a head-to-head contest between the two Englishmen but it was Barham who looked the more in form, going out in 33 with three birdies, by which time he had edged a stroke clear of Pyman, who turned in 37 after suffering two bogeys after an opening birdie.
But it was Barham’s back nine that cemented his solid lead. Further birdies at the short 11th from 25 feet, and at the long 15th, where Pyman also picked up a shot, put him two ahead, then he hit driver, three wood into the par five 17th and drained a 40-foot putt for eagle.
Although Pyman ran in his third birdie at the 17th, he now finds himself three behind, although he started two behind when he won in Moscow three years ago.
“I am just trying to enjoy myself,” said Barham. “I’ve only had one bogey in three rounds and when I won the NCC Open in Sweden last year I led by three going into the last day.”
Pyman said: “I hit two bad shots into the trees on the front nine and they deserved to be bogeys. I played well although I didn’t think I was playing well. But I had 33 putts and that tells its own story. Benn played steady and holed everything.”
Ireland’s Peter Lawrie and Julien Van Hauwe, who birdied the last, both signed for 67 to share third place on 204, while Guido Van der Valk from Holland, who also returned 67, and England’s Michael Welch are joint fifth on 205
Welch ended months of misery by carding a best-of-the-day 64, his lowest ever Challenge Tour return. In his youth, Welch conquered all, winning every title available including the World Junior. But since turning pro in 1994, life has been a long struggle.
This year hasn't been much different. Having missed the cut in ten of his previous 11 cuts, Welch is seeking a change of luck and a boost of confidence. He got it in full measure with eight birdies, four on each nine.
"I played really well for a change and holed most of my putts," said the 29 year old from Shrewsbury, who also covered mistakes at the 12th and 13th by getting up-and-down to save par. "I've been in the bushes too much this year. I started the season badly and never seemed to get out of the rut.
Alexandre Baliki from France, who began the day in third place on nine under, slipped back with 71, while England’s Charles Challen, joint fourth, added a 73 for 209 and joint 14th.