Damien McGrane (Getty Images)
Damien McGrane made a solid start to his third round at the Trophée Hassan II to open up a two shot lead.
The 40 year old Irishman, whose only European Tour title came by nine shots in China four years ago, started the day three behind clubhouse leader Phillip Price but with 13 holes of his second round remaining after lengthy wind delays on Friday.
On his return to the Golf du Palais Royal course in Agadir McGrane birdied the seventh, ninth and tenth to pull level with former Ryder Cup hero Price, before two-putting the long 15th for birdie to take the outright lead.
He holed an important six footer at the last to confirm his halfway advantage, then began the third round with birdies at the third and fourth.
A missed putt from four feet at the fifth cost McGrane his first bogey for 27 holes, but at 12 under par he was still two ahead of Spain’s José Manuel Lara.
Like Price, Lara was one of those to have completed his second round on Friday, and he birdied the fourth to move into outright second.
Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm had consecutive birdies on the fifth and sixth to move into third on nine under, with Price, Finn Mikko Ilonen, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Italian Matteo Manassero a shot further back.
Manassero turned in a three under par 33 and was chasing more than a third European Tour title – the 18 year old has to win to climb into the Official World Golf Ranking's top 50 and earn a place at the Masters Tournament in a fortnight’s time.
Manassero’s hopes of a second Masters Tournament appearance before his 19th birthday were well and truly alive when he two-putted the long tenth for birdie, gained another shot with an approach to ten feet at the next then completed his hattrick with a two at the 199 yard 12th.
Having impressed with a 36th-placed finish as a 16 year old at Augusta National, the Maybank Malaysian Open champion was up to 11 under and briefly held a share of the lead when McGrane bogeyed the seventh.
But McGrane responded with a birdie at the eighth to lead by one as he approached the turn.