Australia's Nole Ratcliffe moved one step closer to winning his first European Seniors Tour title of the 2002 season when he carded a six under par 66 to move into a one shot lead after the second round of the Tunisian Open at El Kantaoui.
Ratcliffe carded five birdies and an eagle to go into the final round on eleven under par 133 and a single shot in front of Ireland's Denis O'Sullivan.
England's John Morgan also recorded a 66 to be one shot further back on nine under par 135 and Scotsmen, John Chillas and Mike Miller, are tied for fourth place on 136.
Ratcliffe started his round with a birdie on the 475 yard par five first hole. He also birdied the third and the eighth to go out in 33 and then stormed home with two further birdies and an eagle on the 547 yard par five 15th where he hit a six iron into 15 feet. His sole dropped shot came at the 13th when he missed the green and failed to get up and down.
"That the best I've played for quite a while," said the Australian whose last victory came at last season's De Vere Hotel Seniors Classic at the De Vere Slaley Hall. "I have been working hard on my swing and all of a sudden it seems to be coming together.
"I hit some great shots out there and I could have been even better because I missed a lot of chances as well."
Ratcliffe has spent a good deal of time over the last few days coaching both O'Sullivan and Morgan and he might come to rue his largesse because the Irishman and the Englishman are his nearest challengers.
O'Sullivan came to the last hole standing at eleven under par but then dropped his first shot in 36 holes when he charged his first putt eight feet past the hole and then failed to sink the return.
The former Irish amateur champion also carded five birdies and an eagle. He went out in 32 with birdies at the first, third, fifth and seventh and then hit a three wood into 15 feet at the 535 yard par five 11th to sent up the eagle. He moved further into red figures with another birdie at the 547 yard par five 15th but dropped a shot with that three putt at the last.
"It was a shame to finish with a bogey but I can't complain too much," he said. "I played well and hit the ball solid. The same tomorrow might do."
Morgan putted as well as he has done all season in a 66 that included seven birdies. He birdied the first and the third before dropping his sole shot of the day at the 170 yard par three fourth. He went on to card further birdies at the fifth and sixth to go out in 33 and then recorded three consecutive birdies from the 14th to leave him with a great chance to win for the first time since the 1999 AIB Irish Seniors Open.
"I have been struggling with my putting for most of the season but suddenly it has come good this week," he said. "It's great to knock a few in and it certainly helps the score."
John Chillas goes into the final round tied with his compatriot Mike Miller.
Chillas used his knowledge of the El Kantaoui course to carve out a fine six under par 66 that included seven birdies and just one dropped shot.
The Scot is coach to the Stirling University golf team and he has been bringing students down to this Tunisian resort since 1988. He believes he has played the course about one hundred times and it showed in a fine round in which he put together identical halfs of 32.
Chillas started his round with a birdie on the 475 yard par five first hole. He dropped a shot on the 191 yard par three second but then had further birdies on the third, fifth and seventh. The Scot then put together a run of six consecutive pars before moving to eight under the card with a burst of three consecutive birdies from the 14th.
"The strange thing is that I didn't hit the ball all that well," said Chillas who is currently lying in ninth place on the Seniors Tour Order of Merit. "But the great thing is that I didn't hit ant destructive shots. I got it onto the greens and holed the putts when I needed them."
Miller looked all set to go into the final round in a tie for third place on 135 but he missed from no more than 12 inches on the last for a 69 and a share of fourth place with Chillas.
Canada’s Bill Hardwick holed a 124 yard wedge shot for an eagle at the 404 yard par four tenth on his way to registering a six under par 66. Hardwick goes into the final round sharing sixth place with America’s Bill Brask and England’s Denis Durnian and Nick Job on seven under par 137. He also holds a sizeable eight shot lead over South Africa’s John Fourie in the race for the 1500 Euro Hardys Wines Super Seniors prize awarded to the leading golfer aged 60 and over.
On a day of incredible scoring no less than 11 competitors in the 51-man field recorded an eagle. David Ojala, Delroy Cambridge, David Good, John Irwin, Jim Rhodes, Denis Durnian and Ratcliffe all scores threes on the 547 yard par five 15th.
Elsewhere, in addition to Harwick’s eagle on the tenth, Jerry Bruner carded a three on the 475 yard par 5 first and O’Sullivan took three on 11th. However, the best shot of the day came from America’s Bill Brask who holed a six iron from 165 yards on the ninth for a glorious eagle two.