A superb eagle three at the par five 17th hole of the Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Course saw George Murray soar away from the chasing pack to establish a three stroke lead going into the final round of the Scottish Hydro Challenge.
The Scot, playing with a refreshed attitude to the game, compiled a third round of 67 to post a 12 under total and lead Sweden’s Magnus Carlsson and Norway’s Marius Thorp by three, with another Scot, Chris Doak sharing fourth place with Chilean Mark Tullo on eight under.
Murray, the overnight leader, was one ahead of the field as he stepped onto the 17th tee, but after an excellent drive and five iron he holed his 35 foot eagle putt to surge three strokes clear.
“I played good on the front nine and then dropped a couple of shots around the turn but the eagle on 17 was massive,” said Murray.
“It was a great putt: downhill with a left to right break from 35 feet and it was great to see it drop. I feel that I am ready to win and to step up to The European Tour but you never know what will happen in a final round.
“Having a three shot lead is important but I could still go out tomorrow and play well and then someone could go silly and shoot a 62. If that happens then it is out of my control, but hopefully I can get the job done – it would be special to win in Scotland with my family and friends all out there supporting me.”
Carlsson, a former Challenge Tour winner, is confident that he is in the right frame of mind to make an impact in the final round.
He said: “I am happy with my position and the way that I have been performing for the whole week. My head has been in the right place all week and you need that to do well. There are times when you are on the course and the mind can wander and all of a sudden your score starts to wander, but this week everything has been good and I feel that I can definitely win from here.”
Thorp, after struggling in the professional ranks for the past two years is looking more and more like man who won the Silver Medal awarded the leading Amateur in The Open Championship at Hoylake in 2006.
“I am getting back to being the old me, the guy who won the Silver Medal at Hoylake and it feels good,” said Thorp.
“I have struggled since turning professional to be honest. I think I put myself too much pressure for the past two years and it hasn’t happened for me on the course. This year I have been playing a lot better and have not been trying to force it.
“I think I came out here thinking that I should be winning every week and that’s not the way the game works in the professional ranks - when you are playing so much you cannot play at your best every week. I think that it took a while for me to realise that but I am getting more experience and trying to make the most of the weeks when I play well.
“It was good today – I have climbed quite a few places on the leaderboard so I am very pleased with that 67.”