Victor Perez came from seven shots behind to lead by one in his homeland at the end of round three at the Hopps Open de Provence.
Perez carded a four under par round of 68 in windy conditions to move in-front on home soil and increase his chance of becoming the first French winner on the European Challenge Tour this season.
The players were met with 25 miles per hour winds, but Perez, who won the 2017 Challenge de España, navigated the conditions and followed up his opening rounds of 72-64 with another sub-70 round to go into the final round with a one stroke lead.
A bogey on the first hole was Perez’s only blemish on his front nine, carding three birdies alongside five pars to move him into the chasing pack. He continued the charge towards the top with two more gains and a bogey in his first three holes after the turn.
With overnight leader Matt Ford struggling in the wind and dropping back, Perez seized his opportunity as he birdied 14 and 16 to lead by two shots. Even with a bogey on the last, which brought the chasing pack within a stroke, Perez was delighted to top the leaderboard after a testing day at Golf International de Pont Royal.
“I’m really pleased. It was a grind for everyone today and it was one of those days where you didn’t know how it would turn out,” he said. “You had to have a bit of luck with the gusts and the wind and I felt I had a good round. Now I’ll take the lead going into tomorrow, which will be a good test for me.
“Saving a lot of energy on the first two days allowed me to be patient and make the right decisions today, and it turned out to be a key day. I think it was quite easy to lose it by shooting three or four over, so I’m really pleased going into tomorrow.
“Patience is key around here. The pins were quite tight and sometimes you had to take your medicine and hit the fat side of the green, leaving yourself 30-35 foot and a hard two-putt. You knew the holes were going to be a grind today with a long two-putt, so if you ended up squeezing the distance by half and giving yourself a look at the hole, then it was a bonus.
“I try to treat every week the same, which is the best way to focus. Obviously, there is going to be a bit more pressure being on home soil but I’m going to go out and execute my game plan and see where it takes me.”
The 26 year old is one stroke ahead of Joel Girrbach, Joel Sjöholm and Ford, who shot a disappointing round of 76, four over par. Girrbach and Sjöholm, who both have Challenge Tour victories under their belts, shot rounds of 67 and 69, respectively. Fellow Frenchman Romain Langasque makes up the top five and remains in contention on home soil, as he lies two shots off Perez.