Ireland’s Peter Lawrie made four birdies in his first ten holes to join Raphael Jacquelin of France, Terry Pilkadaris of Australia and Spain’s Ignacio Garrido at the top of the leaderboard midway through an eventful third round at the Johnnie Walker Classic.
Lawrie began the round on seven under, three shots behind overnight co-leaders Damien McGrane of Ireland and Anthony Kang of the United States, but the 34 year old moved into contention at The Vines Resort and Country Club by holing three birdies to go out in 33.
The Dubliner, who claimed his maiden European Tour title with a play-off victory over Garrido at last year’s Open de España, continued his birdie binge on the tenth and remained on 11 under after pars on the next two holes.
He was joined on that mark by Jacquelin, who started on six under and picked up five strokes with an eagle on the tenth and three birdies on his first 13 holes.
Pilkadaris, who was eight under after his first two rounds, birdied the second, seventh and ninth to reach 11 under at the turn while Garrido, who began on nine under, bounced back from a bogey on the fourth by pitching in for eagle on the fifth and holing a birdie on the eighth.
There was still plenty to play for in the tournament, which is sanctioned by The European Tour along with the Asian Tour and the PGA Tour of Australaisa, with more than 30 players still within four shots of the lead.
The English pair of John Bickerton and Ross McGowan were handily placed at ten under with Felipe Aguilar of Chile and New Zealand amateur Danny Lee, while Gary Lockerbie was tied on nine under with South African David Frost and the Australian duo of Michael Sim and Andre Stolz.
McGrane and Kang dropped off the pace after struggling early on. McGrane had bogeys on three of his first eight holes to drop to seven under while Kang, winner of last week’s Maybank Malaysian Open, was six under after a double bogey on the fourth and bogeys on his next two holes.
Lee Westwood picked up four strokes after teeing off on the back nine but a double bogey on the first dropped him to six under while Anthony Kim’s hope of mounting a challenge suffered a severe setback when the World Number 11 became the second player in two days after Westwood to play a quadruple bogey nine on the par five third.