Thomas Pieters will take a one shot lead into the final round of the D+D REAL Czech Masters, despite incurring a two shot penalty for playing the wrong ball during his third round.
The big-hitting Belgian made a blistering start at Albatross Golf Resort with an eagle on the opening hole followed by a birdie on the second to hit the top of the leaderboard, and he picked up three consecutive birdies from eighth hole. But his progress came to an abrupt halt in bizarre circumstances on the 11th hole when the 23 year old played his second shot from the rough using a ball he thought was his, only to discover his actual ball a matter of yards away.
That mix-up cost Pieters a double bogey and the lead, but he fought back admirably with a birdie on the next hole and picked up two more shots, on the 14th and 16th holes, for an impressive seven under par round of 65.
At 17 under par he is one shot clear of Sweden’s Pelle Edberg, who posted five birdies in his opening 12 holes followed by six consecutive pars to finish off a round of 67.
It was a more dramatic ending for Denmark’s Thorbjørn Olesen who sank a 68ft birdie putt on the 18th hole after only just clearing the water with his approach. That long-range effort was his sixth birdie of the day in a round of 67, and he is four shots back on 13 under par, with English pair Robert Dinwiddie and Matthew Fitzpatrick a further shot adrift on 12 under par after rounds of 68 and 71 respectively.
Pieters was naturally disappointed to drop two shots, but he was pleased with his performance.
He said: "The 11th hurts a little bit because it is my mistake. It could have been a lower one but I’m still really happy with the way I played, and seven under is a good score on a Saturday.
"I was hitting it well and putting well. There was no reason to get too upset. Things happen, it’s just a shame it happened today.
"It was nice to fight back and finish off with a couple of birdies, but I need to learn from it obviously and not make stupid mistakes like that.
"I was a little impatient in Spain when I was up there, especially the first six holes, so I need to stay patient tomorrow. Thomas Pieters
"There will always been some nerves but I’ve been there before in Spain and I just need to stay as calm and patient as I can."
Edberg did not put a foot wrong on Saturday, covering the front nine in 33 before picking up two more shots after the turn.
The Swede was happy with his display. He said: "It was a lot better than the previous two days. I was a lot better off the tee and took care of the par fives better.
"I didn’t hole as many putts but it is a good score. Thomas and I had a great day. We hit pretty much the same distance off the tee and with irons, so it helped me out and probably helped him out too.
"I’ve not felt this comfortable in this position in past years. I’ve been extremely nervous. I’m feeling more confident in the stuff we are working on and the results I’m getting.
"I’ve been up there a few weeks now and it is getting easier to adapt to the situation. I’m excited to get going and that is a good feeling."
Olesen hit six birdies and a solitary bogey on his way to a five under par 67 on day three and he was thrilled with how he played.
He said: "I felt great out there today and tried to play as aggressive as I could. I went after all the pins. It paid off. I hit some great putts.
"I was much more loose today. I felt good on the range warming up. I didn’t have too many worries out there. If I can get out there tomorrow and get the same feeling, I can be aggressive again. "
Matt Fitzpatrick, who shared the lead with Edberg heading into the third round, mixed four birdies with three bogeys to finish on 12 under alongside Robert Dinwiddie.
Earlier in the day, Mikael Lundberg fired an eagle and six birdies as he equalled the course record - set by Scott Jamieson on the final day of last year's tournament - with an impressive 64 to finish in the large group on nine under.