Ross Fisher (Getty Images)
Ross Fisher narrowly preserved his lead to set up what promises to be a thrilling final round in the 3 Irish Open at the Killarney Golf and Fishing Club.
The 29-year-old Englishman led by three shots at the start of the day, an advantage which had been stretched to comfortable proportions thanks to four birdies in the first seven holes during another pulsating day’s golf.
However, he double bogeyed the par four eighth and bogeyed two of the final four holes to card a level par 71, ensuring he remains 12 under par heading into Sunday.
“It was a tough day,” said Fisher, who shot a 61 yesterday. “Unfortunately I tripped up on eight and obviously I’m disappointed to do ten shots worse today.
“I feel like I am still swinging great and holing putts. I just hope that I can go out there tomorrow and try and put today's round to the back of my mind. I’m still the man to catch.”
Chris Wood was the chief beneficiary of Fisher’s wobble, following up yesterday’s sensational 65 with a five under par 66 that leaves him just one shot adrift of his compatriot.
The highlight of Wood’s round was a run of five birdies in succession beginning on the fifth, to which he added another on the 13th. The only blemish to a splendid day’s work was a bogey on the fourth.
“I was hitting really, really nice shots, and the putts,” he said. “That’s given me a lot of confidence and it has sort of gone through the rest of my game.
“He (Ross) has still got a nice lead, but I’ve given myself half a chance for tomorrow.”
Wood shares second place with Francesco Molinari, Fisher’s Italian playing partner, who carded a two under par 69 and later predicted an “interesting Sunday”.
Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño is two shots off the lead after shooting a 68, although his position would have been even healthier had he not double bogeyed the par four last.
“I didn't hit the right shot, and it wasn't the right club either,” he said. “I got a little bit confused with the wind.
“It's a shame, because you can't recover after that. You have to go to bed thinking about that shot all day. But I’m very happy with my round; I played solid.”
It was an unfortunate end to a round that also contained five birdies - and a bogey - in the outward nine, and six in total.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who suffered the same fate as Fisher on the eighth, and Australian Richard Green maintained their victory hopes with a pair of 69s that left them nine under par.
Harrington said: “It looked like I was all out of it after the eighth, so I have got to feel reasonably good about things. If I play well (tomorrow) it’s possible to catch anybody out there.”
Korean Seung-yul Noh and Anders Hansen of Denmark, both of whom shot 70, also remain handily placed one shot further adrift.
Wood’s 66 was matched only by fellow Englishman Richard Bland, who charged up the leaderboard on the back of eight birdies.
He too fell away at the end, bogeying the last two holes to bookend a round that began with a bogey on the first.
Bland was joined on seven under by Denmark's Mark F Haastrup and Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland, who carded 67 and 71 respectively.
Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke are among a four-strong pack one shot back at six under.