Home favourite Ian Woosnam ignited the Welsh crowd with a superb four under par 68 to set up a mouthwatering final day at the Ryder Cup Wales Seniors Open, with fellow big guns Sandy Lyle and Peter Mitchell also in contention.
Despite battling a troublesome hip injury, Woosnam kept his promise to give his countrymen something to cheer about with five birdies and just one bogey, as the Welsh Dragon roared to the top of the leaderboard.
The 50 year old moved on to two under par for the tournament to tie with Englishman Mitchell, putting him in pole position for back-to-back for European Seniors Tour wins following his victory in the Parkridge Polish Seniors Championship at the start of the month.
The crowds once again packed the galleries at Conwy (Caernarvonshire) Golf Course to follow the 2006 Ryder Cup winning Captain, who has set his sights on winning in Wales this week after failing to capture his National Open during a 27 year career on The European Tour.
Woosnam said: “I played a lot better than I did yesterday when I carded 74. I think 68 was probably the worst I could have scored today! I hit some great drives on the par fives. I’m very happy with that round.
“There are some good players out there so it all depends on what the conditions are like out there tomorrow. I guess it will probably be similar to what it is today so if I can shoot a similar score tomorrow I think I have got a good chance of winning.
“I was in agony all the way around the course. My left hip was going into spasms but it seems the further I get around the course the better it gets. At the start of the round it was very painful.
“When you get on a course like this you have to play little punch shots and manoeuvre the ball in the right way and I did that today.
“Hopefully I can go out tomorrow and make another score like that and win my first Wales Seniors Open. Sometimes when you are playing in front of your home crowd you just pull that little bit extra out the bag.
“Hopefully Sandy will also be up there tomorrow. It would be a nice one-two,” he added.
Mitchell , who finished tied 11th on his Seniors Tour debut in Jersey last week after nearly five years out of the game, continued his fine form with a two under par round of 70 to share the lead with fellow Seniors Tour rookie Woosnam. He admitted he was looking forward to playing alongside his old rival from The European Tour.
“I’m quite astounded to be up there to be honest,” he said. “I played well again today. I’m still a bit jittery on some shots and the course is quite tough out there.
“I haven’t played with Woosie for a long time. In fact I haven’t even seen Woosie for a long time so it will be nice to catch up.”
Overnight leader Lyle, of Scotland, is three shots off the pace after a four over par round of 76, to lie tied for third on one over par with Englishman Jim Rhodes who carded a 73.
A double bogey five on the 15th hole cost Lyle the chance of lining up in a crowd pleasing final group with Woosnam, his old rival from Shropshire county golf, with Rhodes taking the slot alongside the Welshman and Mitchell.
Lyle said: “I’m a few shots behind Woosie but he’ll be a hard one to catch. I needed to make some birdies down the straight. I made a good start to the round with some good pars but then I made a silly bogey on the seventh when I played it straight into the bunker and had to play it backwards and it got a bit messy after that. The par fives killed me today.
“I might pull the driver out on a few more holes tomorrow. I had the irons out today and it got me into trouble so safety didn’t work. I need to start making some putts as well.
“It would have been nice to play with Woosie in the last round tomorrow but I’ve just been pipped by Mr Rhodes.”