Tyrrell Hatton was on course to become the first man to successfully defend the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship as he took a six-shot lead into the final nine holes at St Andrews.
On a calm day that provided the opportunity for low scoring, the Englishman turned in 31 to get to last season's winning score of 23 under and lead the way from countryman Ross Fisher.
Fisher finished in a tie for second behind Hatton last year and while he turned in just 29 shots with seven birdies, it was looking increasingly likely that would be the best he would do again.
Victor Dubuisson also turned in 29 to sit at 16 under after 11 holes with fellow Frenchman Grégory Bourdy at that mark after his first nine.
Bourdy quickly cut Hatton's overnight lead to four with a birdie after a smart approach to the first but it was Hatton producing the fireworks as he found the Swilcan Burn with his second and chipped in to save par.
Fisher birdied the second and third and when he added further gains on the fourth and fifth, he was 14 under.
Hatton birdied the second after putting his second close to re-establish his five-shot lead and another birdie via a nice approach on the third moved him further away from the pack.
Bourdy also made a birdie on the third but Hatton was relentless, holing a six-footer on the fourth and a tap-in on the fifth for four in a row and a seven-shot lead.
Dubuisson started the day ten shots behind Hatton but birdied the second and third and then reeled off five in a row from the fifth to make it seven in eight holes and turn in 29.
Bourdy hit a lovely second into the seventh to move into second on his own but he was soon caught as Fisher rolled in a huge putt on the seventh and a 15-footer on the next.
Dubuisson then moved into that group at 16 under with a monster putt of his own on the 11th before Fisher broke out with a third birdie in a row on the ninth to turn in 29.
Despite the brilliant scoring behind him, Hatton still led by five and when he drove the ninth green and got down in two, that gap was up to six.
Scot Marc Warren was six under for his first 12 holes to sit at 14 under for the week alongside Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat who played his first ten in five under, including an eagle after driving the ninth.
Former World Number One Luke Donald, Ireland's Paul Dunne and Swede Joakim Lagergren were then at 12 under.