Thomas Bjorn (Getty Images)
Thomas Björn powered into a four shot lead as the third round of the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf began at Royal Melbourne.
One ahead at the halfway stage, the 42 year old Dane extended his advantage with a birdie from six feet at the first.
Nearest rival Kevin Streelman then dropped four shots over the next three holes, three-putting the second and fourth and double bogeying the third after running off the front of the green with his first two shots.
Wales’ Stuart Manley took up the chase, birdieing his first two holes and recording a hole-in-one at the third to reach seven under, but then cruelly taking 11 at the fourth.
In an incredible twist of fate, the Qualifying School graduate had all sorts of problems getting his ball to stay on the green with the pin tucked away in a back-left position, and saw his challenge fade away as quickly as it had materialised.
That left Björn four clear on nine under par, with Italy’s Francesco Molinari, Australian Jason Day, Japan’s Hideto Tanihara, American Matt Kuchar and Portugal’s Ricardo Santos all tied for second.
The only bad news for Björn was that Thorbjørn Olesen had slipped to four over par, leaving defending champions the USA in command of the team competition.
On nine under par Kuchar, who partnered Gary Woodland to victory in 2011, and Streelman led by three from Australia.
Björn found an awkward spot in the front bunker at the seventh and carded his first bogey of the day, but turning in a level par 35 was enough to remain three clear.
Molinari, a winner under the old format with brother Edoardo in 2009, was on course to set the clubhouse target after five unanswered birdies over his first 15 holes.