Andrea Pavan retained his sizeable lead in the Kärnten Golf Open presented by Mazda, but his previous seven shot advantage was reduced to five after he shot a two under par 70 in the third round.
The Italian found the going tougher than in his first two rounds of 63 and 64, and the trio of Chris Paisley, Bjorn Åkesson and Edouard Dubois capitalised with scores of 68, 67 and 65 respectively to all reach 14 under for the tournament.
Pavan was one over after ten holes and at one stage his lead was reduced to three shots at Golf Club Klagenfurt-Seltenheim, but he atoned for a shaky start with three birdies in the last six holes to reach 19 under overall.
“I hit a couple of awful drives early on which killed my confidence a bit,” said the 22 year old from Rome. “I haven’t been driving great all week but today I struggled. There were also a few tight pins and the course was playing a little longer as well.
“I actually made a couple of really good putts for bogey early on, so it could’ve been worse. And it was nice to finish well – unfortunately I just missed out on birdies at the 17th and 18th.”
Paisley, playing in the €160,000 event on a sponsor’s invitation, had six birdies and two bogeys but was not entirely happy with his putting performance.
“All six birdies were putts from inside three feet,” said the 25 year old, who is currently leading the Alps Tour Order of Merit. “Yesterday I holed three or four 20 footers so that was the difference in the score.
“Andrea made a bit of a nervy start but as he said he holed a couple of great bogey putts and as the round went on he got better and better. It’s nice to have reined him in a little bit, but he’s going to be very tough to beat tomorrow.
“But you never know in golf and five shots isn’t that much. If he has another shaky start and I make a couple of birdies, suddenly that lead is gone. I’ve just got to try and play the best I can and that’s all I can do.”
Åkesson had a topsy-turvy round, with three birdies, an eagle and a bogey in the first seven holes, then eight straight pars, and a birdie and a par to finish.
He said: “Seven shots is a lot so to cut that lead to five is good. It’s always tough to be in the lead, especially when it’s such a big advantage.
“It was another good round for me today and I’m playing very well. My putting was good again today. For the eagle I hit a great drive, then a hybrid to about seven metres and holed a good downhill putt.
“Tomorrow there might be the temptation to go for it a bit more to try and catch Andrea but I think I will just try and stick to my game as it has been working well up to this point.”
Dubois said: “I started very well and was six under after nine holes. I only had one birdie on the back nine, at the 16th, but no bogeys on my card so I’m very happy. Everything about my game was great today.
“I wasn’t expecting Andrea to be only two under today, so it is a surprise to be closer to the lead. I’ll just try and play the same again tomorrow and hopefully have a chance to win.”