Frenchman Anthony Snobeck fired a flawless third-round six under par 65 to take a one shot lead into the final day of the Mugello Tuscany Open.
It was all change at the top of the leaderboard as joint overnight leader Benn Barham slipped back with a four over par 75, and Snobeck and a number of others took full advantage at Poggio dei Medici Golf Club near Florence.
With only six shots separating the entire field at the start of the third round, it was likely there would be plenty of movement and so it proved, with Chris Lloyd, Raphaël De Sousa, Andrea Maestroni and Birgir Hafthorsson all shooting low rounds to reach seven under, alongside Jordi Garcia, one shot back from Snobeck.
Snobeck had a three-hole birdie run from the fourth, then picked up more shots at the ninth, 15th and 16th to reach eight under for the tournament.
“It’s a nice position to be in,” said the 28 year old from Lyon. “I played really well today. I won on the Challenge Tour in 2006 (the Tessali-Metaponto Open di Puglia e Basilicata) but I came from about ten shots behind on the final day and won a play-off, so this situation is a little different but it’s fine.
“I missed a couple of putts today but that’s life. The rest of my game was excellent. It’s a tough course and I need to use my driver a lot. It’s also a very long walk but I have been getting plenty of rest so I’m not too tired. I am looking forward to tomorrow.”
Italy’s Maestroni attributed his 67 to finding form on the greens, saying: “The key was having 27 putts today instead of the 33 I had on each of the first two days. I played beautifully today. There was a little more wind but it was okay.
“I played well here last year too so I know the course very well. It would be very nice to win here in Italy but I don’t want to think about that. I just need to play like today again and we will see.”
Lloyd feared he was in for a tough day when he bogeyed the first two holes, but he bounced back with five birdies for a three under par 68.
“It’s nice to be up there,” he said. “It’s been good this week, although I haven’t putted that well. I changed putters after the first two days and put an old favourite back in the bag. That certainly did the trick.
“After I three-putted the first I feared the worst but I just told myself to stay patient and there were plenty more holes left to make some birdies and that’s what happened. I can’t wait to get out there again tomorrow.”
Birgir Hafthorsson, who had a 67, added: “I had a couple of strokes of luck, two or three lucky bounces, but sometimes you need that to win. Overall I’m very pleased. I’m exhausted because it’s my first tournament of the year, but being near the top of the leaderboard gives me extra energy.”
José-Filipe Lima stormed up the leaderboard with a 65 to be one of three players on six under. He made a stunning start with four consecutive birdies from the second, and added three more on the back nine. The only blot on his scorecard was a bogey at the par three eighth.
He said: “Finally I’ve played 18 good holes. Yesterday should have been better as I was five under nine holes but I finished very badly – it was very hot for me and carrying my bag made me very tired.
“Today I tried to eat more and it has worked. I’m very happy with 65. I missed a couple of putts at the end – from about a metre and a half for birdie at the 17th and from about three metres for eagle at the last – but that’s golf. I’ve been playing very well these last few weeks but my putting has not been great. Now I am putting better and today was perfect apart from one stupid bogey.
“It is so close. When I saw the scores yesterday I thought to myself, ‘I am level par but the leader is only six shots away’. Tomorrow is another day and if I can play the same again I might have a chance.”