Former European Tour winner Rhys Davies moved into pole position for a first victory in five years after the Welshman soared to a seven under par third round of 65 and a two shot lead at the Turkish Airlines Challenge.
The 29 year old carded seven birdies without dropping a single shot over the tricky tree-lined Old Course at Gloria Golf Resort and moved to 12 under par, as the second round leader Edouard Dubois of France struggled to a one over 73.
On another day of sublime conditions in Belek, Davies’ round was the joint best of the day and he will bring a wealth of title-winning experience to the table when he hits the final tee shot off the first on Sunday.
After a stellar amateur career which included ten victories in American collegiate golf and two Walker Cup appearances - beating both Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in his singles contests in the 2007 edition - the Bridgend player claimed two Challenge Tour victories en route to graduation to The European Tour in his first full season in 2009.
He then fulfilled that promise a year later in the big league by winning the Trophée Hassan II – overcoming Louis Oosthuizen in a thrilling final day battle.
Davies was thrilled to have put himself in position for a return to the winners’ enclave and is hoping that the adrenaline of being in the final group Sunday will come rushing back and drive him to victory.
“I finished well today obviously and basically my wedges and putter were really hot,” he said. “I made a slight alteration to my putting stroke yesterday evening and started to roll the ball on line consistently, striking it really well too, so they went in for the most part.
“I think to be successful at this level you need to have a strength that you can really rely on and putting has traditionally been mine. There are other aspects of my game which I think are pretty decent as well but that would be the one that would stand out for me, and it certainly did today.
“I didn’t hit the ball that great to be honest. I was in play most of the time and my long game wasn’t really on but my wedges and putter were excellent.
“It has been a long time since I’ve been in this position in many respects - my form hasn’t been great in the last two years - but I think I’ve got enough good experiences in the back of my memory to draw on.
“I tend to find that when you come to the end of a tournament in a good position, certain things happen and you get certain feelings. You start to draw on past experiences just naturally and hopefully that will be the case tomorrow.”
Davies’ best result of the 2014 season came at the Swiss Challenge presented by Association Suisse de Golf, where he finished in a share of third place, and there was one common denominator between that event and this one. The former East Tennessee State University student has had his wife Deidre on the bag for both, and he believes that she has had a very positive effect on his game.
“I think it’s only the third time Deidre’s caddied for me and so far I’ve played well every time,” he said. “We get on really well and we tend to be pretty relaxed on the course so I think it helps me, definitely.”
Dubois, meanwhile, was disappointed not to continue the fine form he showed in the opening two days but is still happy to be in the mix and, with two Challenge Tour titles to his name, he still believes he can finish the job.
“It was not a good day for me,” said the 26 year old. “I had a seven at the par four sixth hole after losing a ball, so it wasn’t that bad to get back to level par after 12 holes.
“I didn’t play very well on the final six holes – I bogeyed the par five 17th after a very bad third shot – but I’m still here for the win tomorrow. I’m only two shots behind Rhys so it’s still possible.
“I think the difference today was my driving, it wasn’t very good, so I couldn’t reach the par fives. Overall it was just a bad day.
“I just need to stay focussed on my game and do the same things that I did for the opening two days and then I’ll be better tomorrow.”
Englishman William Harrold, a winner on the Challenge Tour last year, and Julien Guerrier of France were both in a share of third place heading into the final day on nine under par after rounds of 70 and 68 respectively, while a trio of Swedes - Björn Åkesson (72), Jens Dantorp (70) and Jacob Glennemo (68) – were joined by Sihwan Kim (69) of the USA in tied fifth on eight under.