Dick Mast will take a three shot lead into the final round of the European Senior Tour Qualifying School Final Stage after a steady two under par 69 kept him in pole position to win a card for the 2012 season.
The American, who began the third round with a four stroke cushion, kept up his momentum with a birdie on the second hole before picking up another on the tenth.
His only bogey of the day came on the 13th hole but he immediately regained a shot on the 14th hole to move to ten under par 203, three strokes clear of Englishman Paul Wesselingh who carded a bogey-free 68 to move to seven under par.
Despite struggling on the greens, Mast, who finished third in The 2006 Senior Open Championship at Turnberry, remains on course to succeed another American, Tim Thelen, as winner of the Senior Tour Qualifying School at Pestana Golf Resort's Vale da Pinta, on Portugal's Algarve.
“The wind was from a different direction today and I made a few wrong decisions but got away with a few others and I’m in a good position,” said the 59 year old.
“I didn’t make any putts today, at all. I didn’t putt well and that was probably the difference between today and the first two rounds. But I feel pretty good and I’m hitting the ball decent. I feel like I’m stroking it good but I had a hard time getting a rhythm today.”
With the top six players earning full cards for the 2012 Senior Tour season, Mast has an eight shot cushion going into the final round in terms of securing unconditional playing privileges, and 10 strokes over 14th position – the final spot to earn an alternate start card.
However, he insisted that he will not be changing his game plan to play more conservatively in the final round.
“I’m just thinking about me – I’m not looking behind me,” said Mast. “I’m not going to play safe or anything and I’m going to try to shoot low tomorrow. I’m in a position whereby I can make more mistakes than the next guy and still get through but my goal was to win it and that is what I will try to do tomorrow.”
Wesselingh, the club professional at Kedleston Park, near Derby, birdied the first, seventh and 12th holes to maintain the pressure on Mast at the top of the leaderboard.
He is trying to secure a card at the first attempt but will also be looking for an improved performance on the greens in his final round.
“I holed a 20ft putt on 17 and another on the sixth when I could have dropped a shot so it is two bogey free rounds in a row now,” said Wesselingh.
“I was pleased with the round but I’m struggling still on the greens so it could easily have been four or five shots better. I’m just hoping I can get in that top six though.”
Another Englishman, Steve Cipa, is third on four under par after a one under par 70 which included a double bogey seven on the par five 16th hole.
Former Scottish Senior Open champion Glenn Ralph is a further shot back on three under par after also carding a 70, with five players, American Charlie Bolling (73), Scotland’s Terry Burgoyne (70), Canadian Rick Gibson (70), Northern Ireland’s Jimmy Heggarty (70) and Zeke P Martinez (68), all tied for fifth position on two under par.
The final round will be contested by 44 players following the third round cut, which was made at eight shots from 14th position – the final spot that would secure a conditional card for the 2012 season.