Tommy Fleetwood will bid to live up to his billing as a potential superstar on the final day of the Kazakhstan Open, where he leads by two strokes after a sumptuous round of 66.
The 20 year old Englishman has been labelled a star in the making after an illustrious amateur career which included victory at the 2010 English Amateur Championship, and ended with him being listed at the very top of the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings.
Since turning professional Fleetwood has recorded two runner-up finishes on the Challenge Tour, firstly at last year’s M2M Russian Challenge Cup and more recently at the Rolex Trophy, but he is in pole position to shed his bridesmaid’s tag after ending day three of the €400,000 event on 13 under par, two strokes clear of Ireland’s Simon Thornton.
After a steady start Fleetwood made his first gain at the fourth hole, before adding another birdie at the eighth hole to reach the turn in 34. Another gain at the tenth hole moved him onto the shoulder of overnight leader Thornton, and he edged ahead of the Irishman with a burst of three birdies in four holes from the 14th to put the seal on a faultless display.
Fleetwood said: “I missed a few makeable birdie putts, but I can’t really complain because that was probably the most stress-free round of golf I’ve ever had. I was probably happier with the no bogeys than the six birdies, because it’s a tough course. I think I only missed one or two greens today, and if a couple more of those birdie putts had dropped then I could’ve gone really low, and I’d be in a very healthy position now.
“But 13 under is still a good score, and I’m very happy with how I’m playing. I made a great par on the 13th, where I hit my second shot into the water, but managed to make a birdie with my second ball. So that was pretty big for my confidence, and I managed to make a few more birdies on the way home to put the icing on the cake.
“I had a winning target in mind at the start of the week, which I won’t reveal but I’m not far short of it now. If I can stay positive and keep swinging it well, hopefully it’ll be good enough. It’s just nice to be playing well in the biggest event of the year, and I’m really looking forward to the last round now. The way I’m playing, I wish we could start it now!”
Fleetwood will be joined in the final group by Norwegian Knut Borsheim and Thornton, who signed for a level par round of 72 to remain on 11 under par.
The Irishman’s approach play lacked the accuracy of his opening two rounds, but he was hopeful of bouncing back to form on the final day, when a maiden Challenge Tour victory would secure him a swift return to The European Tour.
He said: “I didn’t play that well today – most of my birdie chances were from 20 feet or so, which obviously makes it difficult to go low. But I didn’t do anything disastrous either, so I’m still well in contention. Everyone says Saturday is moving day, but if you’re up near the top of the leaderboard you’ve also got to make sure you don’t move in the wrong direction.
“I managed to stay patient and not get too frustrated with myself, even though it was hard at times. I didn’t feel very comfortable over most of my putts today and struggled with the pace of the greens, so I’m going to do a bit of work on the practice green and hope for a better day tomorrow.
“It’s very difficult to go low every day, so hopefully I’ve got my average round out of the way now. I’ve been in this position before and not managed to finish it off, so it’s probably about time that I did!”
Borsheim is currently in third place on ten under par after signing for a round of 71, whilst Dane Andreas Hartø shares third place on nine under par with Argentina’s Cesar Monasterio after the duo shot respective rounds of 69 and 68.