Sam Bairstow headed straight to the range despite stretching his lead to five shots going into tomorrow’s final round of the Brabazon Trophy.
The England international shot a second successive round of 69 to move onto -9 for the championship and give himself a handy cushion over Josh Bristow going into Sunday’s finale.
Having started his round two shots clear of Harvey Byers, Bairstow gladly accepted the extra comfort provided by Saturday’s play after being honest enough to admit that he was not firing on all cylinders.
On a day when Byers and others fell down the leaderboard and Bristow and England men’s squad duo Charlie Thornton and Arron Edwards-Hill surged through the field, Bairstow remains the man to beat.
However, Bairstow was the first to admit that if he plays like he did in round three when the heat is on tomorrow then he might put himself under unnecessary extra pressure.
“I’m glad the range is still open,” admitted Bairstow.
“I can’t hit it like that again tomorrow.
“I’ll take it – I didn’t play my best but I got it round and that’s the main thing. A decent score.
“My wedge play has been good and it feels good. I’ve been hitting them inside ten feet and the putter is good from that range. That helps.”
The Yorkshireman had played near flawless golf the first two days at Ganton Golf Club, but today needed all his scrambling skills to get him home in one piece.
After starting with a birdie, a succession of up and downs kept the Yorkshireman’s round together.
Even after getting to -10 with birdies at 13 and 14, Bairstow couldn’t settle into a rhythm.
He found a fairway bunker on 15 en route to a bogey and had to rely on his wedge skills to bail him out after missing the fairway with his tee shot at 16 and coming up short at the treacherous 17th.
However, Bairstow’s class and ability to stay focused despite having to battle on every hole should stand him in good stead for the final day’s play.
“I might have slept on a lead once before, but not in a tournament like this,” added Bairstow who had his post-round interview gatecrashed by John Gough who handed over the ‘lucky snake’ the leader won at an arcade in Filey on Thursday night!
“We’ll see. I’ll get back with the lads and watch a film – that’ll do!
“There’s a few people coming up from my club so that’s nice.”
It was a disappointing back-nine for Bairstow’s playing partner Byers who had looked like pushing his friend all the way after reaching the turn in one under par.
However, four bogeys and a triple on the 14th when he found bunker problems left the Walton Heath golfer (pictured below) back in a tie for ninth.
Zach Chegwidden was another to threaten Bairstow, reaching -6 for the championship through 10 holes.
A double bogey at the 12th and two further dropped shots left him seven off the pace going into the final day.
Instead, the players who gained the most were Canterbury’s Bristow and the grouping of Thornton and Edwards-Hill whose betterball score would have been 12 under par!
Bristow’s round of 69 included three birdies and just one bogey and he’s full of belief going into the final round in the last group with Bairstow.
“There’s been many a time when a big lead has been overturned,” said Bristow who has girlfriend Bobbi on the bag for him this week.
“Greg Norman’s lead being overturned by Nick Faldo is the famous one. I just have to keep my head down and go for it.
“Staying patient is definitely key. We’ve all played this game for a long time and anything can happen.”
Edwards-Hill rattled off an incredible six birdies in succession from the ninth hole as he posted a round of 67 to shoot into a tie for fourth on two under par.
Thornton might not have managed six in-a-row but he did knock in seven birdies during a round of 66 including a 25-footer from off the green at 18.
That score catapulted him up the leaderboard and into third place on his own six back from the leader.
Hill said: “We both got on a roll and I think we were bouncing off each other holing putts to keep the momentum running.
“It’s such a tough track and if you hit it off line you can find trouble. It’s nice to say I had six birdies in-a-row around Ganton.
“Tomorrow I hope to hole a few putts and see where I end up.”
Thornton said: “The last few days I’ve got off to a shaky start and had to grind it out to get the scores.
“Today I holed a few putts early on and it gave me confidence.
“It’s nice when you have that gap and you can just try and shoot as low a round as possible.”
Sam Potter from Kedleston Park (-2), English Amateur champion John Gough and Scotland’s Lewis Irvine (-1) are the other players under par after 54 holes and in need of something extra special to push for glory on Sunday.
Photography credit: Leaderboard