English duo Jordan Smith and David Horsey will go head-to-head in the final round of the European Tour’s ISPS Handa World Invitational as they both look to end long winless runs in Northern Ireland.
Smith claimed his first and only victory on the European Tour four years ago in Germany, and a bogey-free round of 65 in Ballymena on Saturday moved him to 15-under and in pole position to win a second title.
For Horsey, it is nearly six years since he claimed his fourth Tour victory in Denmark, and he went one shot better than Smith with a 64 to sit just one back with 18 holes to play.
New Zealand’s overnight leader Daniel Hillier is third at 11-under, a shot clear of Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura and Dutchman Darius Van Driel.
Australia’s Blake Windred will be looking for a similar finish after his third round 64 thrust him up to joint-12th at seven-under.
In the women’s event running alongside, Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn signed for a 66 to surge up the leaderboard and share top spot at 13-under with Americans Jennifer Kupcho and Emma Talley.
After eagling the third, the 22-year-old saw her momentum stall on the front nine but she came home in 30 with six birdies, making five in a row from the ninth.
“I think my putter was working very well today,” said Anannarukarn, who secured a top 10 at last week’s Amundi Evian Championship. “I made a lot of good birdie putts out there and I’ve been hitting it really good.
“It’s still going to be 18 holes to go and I think I’m just going to focus on doing what I can do tomorrow.”
Overnight leader Talley had to fight back from a double-bogey after finding the water at the ninth to sign for a level par 73, and admitted she found it strange playing alongside her boyfriend, who is Kupcho’s caddie.
“It was weird, I honestly didn’t like it,” she said. “Now I know what to expect, so I feel a lot better about doing it tomorrow.
“Today honestly threw me off. I was also very nervous. I haven’t been in this position in a long time and the fact that I kind of came back after the double on nine, I kind of got mad again and used that energy to make a few birdies in a row.”
Kupcho birdied her last two holes in a 70 to get into a share of the lead, with two Australians, Su Oh, in joint-sixth, and Sarah Kemp, tied for eighth, still in the hunt at nine-under and eight-under respectively.