Spaniard Carlos Del Moral surged to the top of the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal leaderboard with a stunning nine under par 63 in the third round at Santo da Serra.
The 26 year old will take a three shot lead into the final day as he goes in search of his maiden European Tour title, thanks to an exquisite putting display which racked up nine birdies.
Del Moral had just 20 putts in a round which ended with three consecutive birdies – plus two more putts from just off the green – to power ahead of young Swede Joakim Lagergren, who is 14 under, while Mikael Lundberg and Magnus A Carlsson, also of Sweden, Portugal’s Ricardo Santos and Englishman Oliver Wilson are another shot back at 13 under.
“It was incredible,” said Del Moral. “I putted beautifully and it gives me a lot of confidence. I had nine holes in a row – the entire front nine – with only one putt. And the ones that I missed hardly missed at all, they were so close to going in. My putting really was outstanding.
“It was tough mentally on the back nine. I have been working on my swing for a while and this is the first time I’ve been up there in a tournament and it feels like it is in place.
“Last week at the Spanish Open I played well but didn’t putt well. I am a lot better from tee to green these days. I am much straighter off the tee, and this golf course allows you to go a bit wider off the tee as well.
“I’m really glad to be in this position and I’m very excited about tomorrow. I’ve been up there before a few times and didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped, but I’m a much more mature player now and I am looking forward to it.”
European Tour rookie Lagergren did not quite hit the heights of his first two rounds, when he shot 66, but a two under par 70 keeps him in contention.
“I didn’t play very well on the front nine,” said the 20 year old. “I was a little nervous on the first tee but that soon went away. Luckily I managed to play a lot better on the back nine – I was three under and it could have been a lot more. My putter was ice cold and I missed a few short ones.
“I’ll have to go on the hunt tomorrow. I’ve shot 66 for two rounds so I know there are low scores out there. Carlos is three ahead but that’s not a lot in a final round, so I’ve just got to concentrate on playing well and hopefully I can catch him.”
Ricardo Santos delighted the home crowds with his round of 68, which included an eagle, three birdies and a bogey.
“Tee to green I’m playing great,” said the 2011 Challenge Tour graduate. “My putting needs to be a bit better though.
"This course is very special to me because I did well here as an amateur and I was leading here in the first round in 2007. It’s a place I’d love to win, of course. It’s great to have lots of family and friends here watching. It spurs me on.
“Carlos is a few shots ahead but there is still a long way to go and I just have to go out and keep playing well tomorrow.”
John Parry, a European Tour winner who is back on the Challenge Tour this year, signed for a seven under par 65 to reach ten under.