For the second year running, Bernhard Langer leads heading into the final round at The Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex after a stunning four under par 66 sent the German three shots clear at Royal Birkdale Golf Club.
Langer eventually finished in a tie for sixth as Fred Couples prevailed at Turnberry 12 months ago, but The 2010 Senior Open Champion will be confident of finishing the job this time around after another imperious display on the revered Southport links took him to nine under par for the tournament.
South Africa’s David Frost shot a two under par 68 to remain in contention on six under par, while a further shot back with 18 holes to play is American Mark Wiebe, who had to make do with a level par 70 after another testing day at Birkdale.
Sandy Lyle heads the home charge on three under par after 54 holes following a one under par 69 on Saturday, a gross total matched by Australian Peter Fowler and American Gene Sauers.
Despite finishing with a bogey for the second day running, Senior Open debutant Colin Montgomerie signed for a one under par 69, good enough for a share of 13th place.
It was 55 year old Langer who shone the brightest on Moving Day, though, in his bid for a second Senior Claret Jug.
The Anhausen native looked masterful from the outset, turning in 31 after birdies at the third, the testing sixth and the seventh. A three-putt bogey at the 14th was the only blemish on an otherwise flawless card, as the two-time Masters Champion birdied both the par five 15th and 17th to seize a three-shot cushion heading into Sunday.
“It’s always special to win any tournament, but to win a Major and to win it on a golf course like this, would mean a lot,” he said.
“There's a lot of golf left. We all know that. There’s somebody inside me that expects me to win, but I know there's 18 holes left, and there's a lot of shots to be pulled off and a lot of putts to be made. So golf is not over till it's over, and we've got 18 holes to play.”
Langer won The Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2010 and has never finished outside the top 12 in five previous appearances. After opening rounds of 68 and 67, the 2004 Ryder Cup Captain believes he has played as well this week as when he claimed his two Green Jackets in 1985 and 1993.
He said: “I've hit so many good shots the last few days where just they feel good and come off right where I want them to go and they go the proper distance. It's just fun playing golf that way because it doesn't happen very often.”
Frost pressured Langer for much of the day, firing three birdies in succession before the turn, but birdies at the 15th and 17th were tempered by three bogeys coming home, and the 53 year old Cape Town man will have to overturn a three-shot deficit to claim a maiden Senior Open title on Sunday.
He said: “I have to do something really special,” he said. “I have to find something that I'm confident with, that I can go out tomorrow and just find a little key thought.
“It would be special to win here at Birkdale. I've come here many years, so hopefully we can talk about that tomorrow night.”
Overnight co-leader Wiebe needed a 40-foot birdie putt at the 13th to return to level par for the day and remain within four shots of the lead, while a pair of gains from the 13th for Lyle kept the 1985 Open Champion in the hunt, albeit six shots off the lead.