Paul Casey missed out on the course record by one shot but the 31 year old Ryder Cup star followed a second round 65 with a dazzling 63 in the third round and leads by four going into the final round of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
"I'm not putting pressure on myself because it's early in the season," said Casey, who has to go all the way back to the same event two years ago for his last victory.
No fewer than 15 top ten finishes have come since then, but the former World Match Play champion decided to stay at home and work hard on his game last month rather than go on honeymoon, and it is paying immediate dividends.
At 19 under par Casey is already two better than his winning mark in 2007, but he will be aware that his closest challenger now, German Martin Kaymer, is the man who lifted the trophy last year.
That was the 24 year old German's maiden European Tour success and he came close to securing a Ryder Cup debut on the back of it.
Kaymer knocked four strokes off his two opening 68s, but still found that it left him further behind as Casey grabbed four birdies on the front nine, three more in the next four holes and then closed with two more.
The one on the long tenth was a complete bonus. Casey drove under a tree, but sank a 40 foot putt.
"That was the turning point, I think," he added. "On the second shot I didn't know where the ball was going to go and I didn't know whether I would break my club.
“I didn't expect much after yesterday's 65. It was nice playing with Graeme Storm, Graeme is actually a good friend. We all got off to a great start, birdied the first, bogeyed the second, calmed things down and just sort of rolled on from there and it was quite unexpected.”
On The European Tour his last round of 63 was three years ago and he has only once shot better.
He added: “I think it's always enjoyable to shoot 63. Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
“Martin is very capable of shooting low numbers, so if he shoots the same number I shot today, a 63, that would require me to play some very good golf in order to beat him. I just want to shoot under par golf, and if you need to worry about the situation down the last couple of holes, then do you, but you don't think about that from the start.”
Kaymer said: “I think it's going to be a totally different situation for me. I was in the lead by six shots last year when I went out on Sunday, and it was a similar situation. It's going to be very new for me.”
Joint halfway leaders were fellow Englishman Graeme Storm and Australian left-hander Richard Green.
Storm slipped to third on 14 under with a 69, but Green dropped all the way to joint 28th with a 76.
The Open Championship and US PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington had hoped his 68 for 11 under would leave him with a chance in his first event of 2009, but although he is in a tie for eighth now he has eight strokes to make up on his Ryder Cup teammate.