Kim Koivu will take a one-shot lead into the final day of the Belt and Road Colourful Yunnan Open after carding a two under par third round of 69 in China.
Starting the day at the top of the leaderboard with a two-shot advantage, the Finn played patiently over the front nine, where he went bogey-free while picking up birdies on the two par fives – the third and the fifth.
With others around him impressing at Yulongwan Golf Club – most notably home favourite Jin Zhang who signed for a blemish-free score of 65 to set the clubhouse target at seven under par – Koivu kicked up to another gear by bagging further gains at the par three 14th and par five 16th to extend his lead to three.
Lapses in concentration did follow over his final two holes though, with the 27 year old mistiming a chip from the fringes which flew over the green at the par three 17th before an errant tee shot at the par four 18th led to two bogeys in two holes.
Having played impeccably for 16 holes today, Koivu admitted he was still confident of turning his one-stroke lead over America’s Charlie Saxon into a maiden European Challenge Tour victory tomorrow.
“I felt pretty comfortable playing from the front today and I think I will be tomorrow too,” said Koivu, who is making only his fourth Challenge Tour appearance this week.
“I work hard to try and get to the top so it is definitely where I want to be and I am enjoying it.
“I think I played good all day. I just hit a couple of bad shots coming in but I am still really happy with my performance today and I have a good chance to bounce back tomorrow.
“I had a couple of really good chances to go even lower, especially on the second when I missed a short one, but I am really pleased with four birdies on this course.
“The wind picked up again today and the greens are starting to get firmer so some of the putts were really fast and caught me off guard slightly.
“It’s a long season, this is only the second event, but I am just going to go out there tomorrow and try and post the best score that I can.
“I have been in this position before many times as an amateur so I think I will be very comfortable tomorrow.”
One adrift of Koivu is America’s Saxon who is well-placed to challenge for a third title of the season having already triumphed twice on the China Tour this year.
The 24 year old posted a four under par score of 67 to reach eight under par overall – one back from Koivu who is nine under par after 54 holes.Of those in the chasing pack England’s Marcus Armitage, who is six under par after three rounds in Kunming, is the only player to have triumphed on the Challenge Tour before and will go in search of his second title in China tomorrow, two years after he won the Foshan Open