Erik van Rooyen put on a flawless display at Ballyliffin Golf Club to open up a four-shot lead heading into the final round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation.
The South African entered the day in a share of the lead at the fourth Rolex Series event of the season and made six birdies in a front nine of 29 to power ahead of the rest of the field.
Nine pars on the way home meant he finished the day at 14 under after a 66, four shots clear of New Zealander Ryan Fox and Swede Joakim Lagergren.
Major champion Danny Willett recovered from an early double-bogey to sign for a 69 and sit at nine under, a shot clear of Scot Russell Knox who signed for a 68.
Van Rooyen has three top tens since graduating from the Challenge Tour last season but a win at one of the European Tour's eight prestige events would truly announce his arrival.
One of those top tens at the Joburg Open earned Van Rooyen a spot at the Open Championship and there are another three available this week to the three leading players in the top ten not already exempt.
Fox played in last year's Open after finishing in a tie for fourth at this event and he was on course to punch his ticket again alongside Lagergren and Frenchman Matthieu Pavon, who was at seven under with countryman Raphaël Jacquelin and England's Lee Westwood.
On a day of changeable conditions on the north coast of Ireland, playing partners Van Rooyen and Lagergren battled on the front nine but allowed Fox, Willett and Knox to creep into contention as they both parred their way home.
“The mindset was just keep going,” he said. “I wasn't very much aware of my score or the situation. You sometimes get in a groove as a golfer where things just happen and you hit great shots and great putts and that's what happened.
“It wasn't different on the back nine - it's just different holes, different conditions, different everything. I still played great. Wish I could birdie the two par fives but I didn't. Looking back, all in all, I think it was a good day.
“I would love to get a win but that's 24 hours from now. I've been in this position before, maybe not in a Rolex Series, but it's golf. Go hit the ball, hit on the green and make the putt. We'll do that tomorrow.”
I would love to get a win but that's 24 hours from now. I've been in this position before - Erik van Rooyen
Van Rooyen finished with two birdies on Friday and he maintained that momentum, hitting a wonderful drive to set up an opening gain and hit the front on his own.
The 28 year old then got a favourable bounce on the next and took full advantage, stiffing an approach to ten feet to move to double figures and lead by two.
The rain stopped and the wind began to die down and Van Rooyen got up and down from a greenside bunker on the par five fourth to move three ahead.
Lagergren hit a wonderful tee-shot into six feet on the par three next to get to eight under and a 15-footer on the sixth had him alone in second.
Van Rooyen's tee-shot into the seventh was not his best effort but his putt was, a triple-breaker from a long way out to take his lead back to three shots.
He got a nice lie in the rough and a nice links bounce on the next to set up a tap-in birdie but Lagergren made a gain of his own from distance as the playing partners began to pull away from the pack.
Van Rooyen was just off the front edge of the ninth green but everything he was touching was turning to gold and he holed an 18-footer to extend the lead to four.
Joint overnight-leader Fox was level par after ten holes, with birdies on the fourth and tenth and bogeys on the sixth and eighth, but holed a 25-footer on the 16th and birdied the par five 17th after a huge drive.
England's Willett - the 2016 Masters Tournament champion - turned in 37 after that double-bogey but made some lengthy putts as he rattled off four birdies in a row before taking advantage of the 17th.
Knox bogeyed the first but hit back on the fifth and eighth and caught fire after the turn, going birdie-birdie-par-eagle from the tenth before bogeying the 17th.
Jacquelin picked up five shots in his last six holes in a 68, while compatriot Pavon made one bogey and 17 pars after entering the day in a share of the lead.
Westwood signed for a 70 to sit a shot ahead of countryman Andy Sullivan, defending champion Jon Rahm, another Spaniard in Jorge Campillo, South African Zander Lombard and American Peter Uihlein.
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