Marcus Fraser (Getty Images)
Marcus Fraser was battling a host of challengers but remained in a share of the lead midway through the final round of the 70° Open d’Italia Lindt at Golf Club Torino.
The two-time European Tour winner enjoyed an epic tussle with Nicolas Colsaerts over the front nine, but it was German Maximilian Kieffer and Ireland’s David Higgins who joined him on 11 under par after Fraser turned in a level par 36.
The big-hitting Belgian Colsaerts, who was forced to pull out of last week’s KLM Open with flu, comfortably reached the green in two at the par five opener and, although he missed a 15 foot eagle effort, moved to 11 under with a birdie.
Fraser also picked up a shot at the first, but handed it back two holes later, although the Australian was ahead on his own again when Colsaerts bogeyed the fourth after missing from ten feet.
The tide shifted the way of Ryder Cup star Colsaerts at the sixth as he struck his approach to five feet and birdied while Fraser drove in the rough and bogeyed.
But the momentum reversed again at the very next hole as Colsaerts’ tee shot finished in a divot and he flew the green, the resulting lie leaving him with no option but to chip to 20 feet from where he two-putted for bogey, as Fraser holed a 25 footer for birdie.
Higgins had a hat-trick of gains approaching the turn and the 40 year old, with one top-three finish in over 200 European Tour appearances, gained another shot at the 14th to be four under for the day.
Kieffer, beaten by Raphaël Jacquelin in a record-equalling play-off in Spain earlier in the season, was also four under through 13 holes.
Colsaerts had been joined on ten under by England’s 2005 winner Steve Webster and Swede Fredrik Andersson Hed, while a further eight players were still in the hunt at nine under – a mark at which Alvaro Quiros and Robert-Jan Derksen had set the clubhouse target.
Amongst them was Francesco Molinari, who ignited the biggest cheer of the day at the course where he learned to play the game when he chipped in from the bunker for a birdie at the eight.
The clubhouse target was upped to ten under by former winner Andersson Hed.
Kieffer quickly dropped out of the lead after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Higgins and Webster both found the same bunker on the 16th and neither managed to save par, leaving Fraser alone in the lead again on 11 under despite missing a good birdie chance on the 12th.
A birdie from Fraser on the 13th opened up a two shot lead for the first time, but only until Webster holed an outrageous 60 foot putt across the 17th green for an unlikely birdie.
Webster was unable to find another birdie on the last but Higgins did from 15 feet after a superb approach from a fairway bunker, meaning the duo posted matching rounds of 68 to set the new clubhouse target at 11 under.