A third round of level par 72 was good enough to keep François Calmels ahead of the field at the Challenge de Madrid, but the Frenchman will be acutely aware of a chasing pack gaining momentum and bidding to stop his charge towards a second Challenge Tour title.
Led by Denmark’s Thomas Nørret, whose five under par 67 (the joint best round of the day) saw him charge into second spot on 11 under, there are 15 players within five strokes of Calmels going into the final round.
The Swede Jens Dantrop and Englishman Phillip Archer share third place on ten under, with Alvaro Velasco leading the home charge a further shot back, alongside Finland’s Tapio Pilkkanen and Frenchman Edouard Dubois.
On a tricky day at El Encín Golf Hotel on the outskirts of Madrid, Calmels cancelled out his three birdies with three dropped shots to remain on 12 under par with 18 holes to go.
Such has been the level of the 31 year old’s performance in the Spanish Capital this week, his first bogey of the day – on the difficult 210 yard par three sixth hole – was his first dropped shot in 25 holes.
With just one round to go in Madrid, Calmels knows that if he can eliminate the mistakes from his final round then he will be a tough proposition for the chasing pack in Saturday’s final round.
“I didn't play very good today,” admitted the Frenchman. “I made three very bad choices which all led to mistakes and dropped shots.
“Then, my putting was nowhere near as good as it had been for the first two rounds. I just had one of those days on the course where all of the mistakes were down to me, my own bad decisions.
“I really felt like I could gout there today and put another really good score together but I just didn’t play well enough. I just have to come back here tomorrow and try and eliminate the mistakes and putt more like the first and second rounds. If I can do that then I will have a great chance to win.”
Nørret, meanwhile, is looking to repeat his third round performance.
“I played very steadily today and didn't get into many problems,” said the Dane.
“At the start of the round I was playing nice but couldn’t seem to get the ball close enough to create any good birdie chances, but I managed to turn that around on the back nine and made four birdies there and now I am in contention for the final round.”