Frenchman Grégory Bourdy produced a putting masterclass to card a sublime bogey-free seven under par 63 and establish a two stroke lead heading into the final round of the UBS Hong Kong Open.
Joint overnight leader Bourdy raced to 16 under par with one of the best rounds of the third day to pull clear of playing partner Robert-Jan Derksen, who dropped just one shot during a 65 that left him on 14 under par.
Last year’s runner-up and The Race To Dubai candidate Rory McIlroy battled to also post a hard fought 65, however he faces a five shot deficit heading into Sunday on 11 under par.
A congested top of the leaderboard also contains Peter Lawrie (66), Miguel Angel Jimenez (63), Francesco Molinari (66) and defending champion Lin Wen-tang (67) a shot behind the 20 year old Northern Irishman at 10-under-par.
The day’s highlight, however, was Bourdy’s exhibition of solid iron play and superb putting.
“I enjoyed it, it was a fantastic round,” he said.
“I am going to try and keep by putter warm because it was unbelievable today.
“It was one of my best ever rounds. I am going to continue to play my game and if I play under par I will have a big chance to win.”
Derksen, whose solitary bogey came at the fourth hole, carded six other bidies to keep in the hunt and afterwards admitted he was pleased to still be in with a shout.
“I played well and only hit one bad shot, on the fourth where I made bogey,” he said.
“Other than that I was very solid. And it was a pleasure to play with Greg, I just tried to follow him up.
“We are both reasonably quick players so we got the business done, he hit good shots and I hit good shots and on days like that this is the best job in the world.”
With The Race To Dubai leader Lee Westwood only progressing to five under par with a 69, McIlroy is in prime position to take over at the top of standings heading into the season-ending Dubai World Championship presented by: DP World.
And while that is of some comfort to McIlroy, he knows he could realistically be leading the tournament after failing to convert in excess of 10 realistic birdie chances over the first three rounds.
“I was in a similar position last year and shot a 65 to get into the play-off,” he said.
“I’ll have to do something like that or even better tomorrow. My mindset is to get off to a fast start and try and keep it going.”
Last year McIlroy missed out on a then maiden European Tour title after losing to Chinese Taipei’s Lin in a thrilling play-off, but 12 months on has February’s win at the Dubai Desert Classic under his belt and is certainly in form after blazing a nine under par final round at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai last week.
He bounced back from an early double bogey which erased his early gains to pick up six shots in seven holes around the turn before letting slip a late bogey.
“It was great to get those two shots back straight away,” he admitted.
“I knew I was hitting it well and putting well and it was a matter of giving myself chances again.
“Maybe a couple of years ago I would have been a bit flustered but that comes with experience. When people ask the difference between turning pro and now and the answer is experience. That could have been it for me and I could have shot 73 or 74.”
Of the chasing pack, Jiménez’s round of 63 - including eight birdies - caused the most movement among the leaders as the two time former champion rocketed 39 places up the standings.
“The course is in great condition and if you hit it decent you can make a good score,” he said.
“I love the golf course. It is a course you don't need to bang the ball to win or do well.
“I feel good and tomorrow I need to hit the ball well and knock some putts in.”