Rookie Ross Fisher continued to show how quickly he has become comfortable in the world of The European Tour when a calm and controlled third round showing at the Shenzhen Golf Club saw him take a one shot lead into the final round of the Volvo China Open. Fisher carded a 68 for an 11 under par total of 205 to head his former English amateur team-mate Oliver Wilson and overnight leader Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand, Wilson posting a third round 71 for 206 while Plaphol – bidding to become the third Thai golfer to win on The European Tour – had his worst day of the week so far and recorded a 74.
China's Lian-Wei Zhang delighted the locals with a 66 on his home course to finish one stroke further back on nine under par 207, with another English duo Barry Lane and Miles Tunnicliff and Denmark's Søren Kjeldsen another shot adrift on eight under par 208 in this co-sanctioned event between The European Tour and the Asian Tour.
Fisher, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Tuesday, is playing in only his 11th full European Tour event. He finished 18th on the Challenge Tour in 2005, enough to guarantee him entry into a number of tournaments this season, but then opted to attend the qualifying school anyway and finished 14th to earn full playing privileges.
"This is very uncharted territory," he admitted after four birdies in his last seven holes propelled him into pole position. "I played a few Tour events last season which has been a massive help to me, just to be out there competing with the big boys.
"I've won a few events but I don't think anything can compare to this. It was pretty cool to see my name on the leaderboard yesterday when I finished and to see it on top now is an awesome feeling. I can't wait for Sunday."
Fisher may be a virtual unknown but Wilson revealed he was not surprised to be competing against his former team-mate for the first prize of €184,533 (£126,354).
"He hits it an absolute mile and has a lot of talent," said Wilson, who had 17 pars and a solitary birdie at the 16th after missing several putts from inside three feet. "He has always done well at every level he played and has gone on to do very well since we played together at amateur level for England."
Wilson, a member of the victorious Walker Cup team in 2003, added: "I thought someone would make a charge today so I'm very pleased to only be one shot back despite only shooting a 71.
"It was a little bit frustrating, I couldn't get the ball to the hole and I've struggled all week with the pace of the greens. But hopefully I was saving them all up for Sunday and I can be in contention coming down the stretch."
Plaphol held a three shot lead at the start of the day but his quest to follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant and win on The European Tour was derailed slightly due to some poor form from the tee.
“I just drove the ball badly all day,” he said. “On the practice range it didn’t feel good and I carried that into the round. It got a bit better on the back nine and I managed to play a bit better but it was really good to save par at the last from the trees. At least that kept me just one off the lead and I will go to the range now and try to sort things out.”
Not surprisingly, the bulk of the home support was reserved for the fourth placed Zhang, the only Chinese golfer who started the week to make the cut. His third round 66 was the best round of the day and put him bang in contention to add to his earlier European Tour victory in Singapore in 2003 where he birdied the last hole to pip Ernie Els.
“After the second round there was a big gap between me and the leader but now it is a lot closer,” he said. “Over the first two days my putting wasn’t great but today it was very good. Now I’m a lot closer to the lead, I think I have a good chance for tomorrow. I’m sure there will be a lot of pressure but I will try and smile my way round.”