David Frost fired a flawless six under par 66 to move into a three-way share of the lead in The Senior Open Championship with American pair Mark Calcavecchia and Russ Cochran after a dramatic third round at Walton Heath Golf Club.
South African Frost, who lost in a play-off to Tom Lehman in last year’s US Senior PGA Championship, sank a seven foot birdie putt on the last hole to move to seven under par for the Championship going into the final round after taking advantage of a slip by Calcavecchia, the joint-overnight leader.
Calcavecchia had opened up a three shot lead over the field after three birdies in his opening 12 holes but it was a case of unlucky 13 as his drive into the notorious Walton Heath heather cost him a treble bogey seven and a dip in confidence.
A further dropped shot on the 16th saw the 1989 Open Champion slip back into the pack but he returned to the top of the leaderboard with a crucial birdie on the last to tie with Frost and Cochran, his compatriot who shot an impressive 66.
Calcavecchia is bidding to become only the fourth player to win both The Open Championship and Senior Open Championship but he admitted that he will have to improve his driving in the final round if he is to follow in the footsteps of Gary Player, Bob Charles and Tom Watson.
“My driver gets a little out of kilter every now and then, and you know, once I start hitting it crooked, I can't stop it.
“I hit six perfect drives in the first six holes and after that it was ugly. I finished three, three, with a birdie on 18 so that was nice and I’m back in with a tie for the lead. There's a whole bunch of guys at six under par and it's pretty tight.
“I'm sure somebody is going to shoot a good score. You have to go out and have a good one tomorrow and if I can keep on hitting my irons pretty good and if I can keep it out of the bad stuff, maybe I'll have a chance.”
Frost’s red-hot putter saw him charge up the leaderboard as he looks to become the second consecutive European Senior Tour Member after Bernhard Langer to capture The Senior Open Championship.
“I've got myself right in there now,” said the 51 year old Mauritius Commercial Bank Open Champion. “Another round like this would be great.
“Somehow minus eight crept into my head last night before I went to bed, and I just saw this number in the sky all day long. Unfortunately, I just missed it by one. But I made a lot of good putts, a lot of crucial putts, which gives me confidence for tomorrow.”
“I thought this morning time's running out to win a Major Championship so I might as well just go for broke.”
Cochran, who finished tied third in last year’s Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie, began his third round with a hat-trick of birdies and added five more but a bogey on the fifth and a double bogey on the 14th blotted an otherwise scintillating round.
“I had a great feel with the putter today,” said Cochran. “I’ve been kind of struggling with it a little bit the first couple of days and trying to kind of find the speed of the greens, but today, I saw the putts beautifully and it seemed like I could make a lot of birdies.”
It’s the third successive day that three players have shared the lead and with three shots covering 12 players at the top of the leaderboard it promises to be a fascinating final round at Walton Heath.
Englishman Barry Lane, the best placed European, is one shot behind the leading trio on six under par after carding a three under par 69, the same score as his playing partner Corey Pavin, the 2010 United States Ryder Cup Captain, who is tied with him in a share of fourth position.
Pavin was runner up to Langer last year and is hoping to go one better this time round.
“It would be nice to win tomorrow,” said Pavin, the 1995 US Open Champion. “I have not won yet on the senior circuit, and to win over here has always been a dream of mine and to win on a links style golf course. On many levels it would be very nice.”
Tom Watson, the three time Senior Open Champion and five time Open Champion, is also in the frame after signing for a round of 69 for a four under par aggregate total to sit just three shots off the lead.
The 61 year old said: “I played a really solid front nine, then I three putted the tenth. But I birdied 12 and 13, which were two good, solid birdies. Then I got a little scruffy, hit a bad too shot on the 16th, but still managed to make a wonderful par. You never like to end on a bogey, but that's the game. Overall, I played a very good round of golf – 69 is a good score out there today.”