Muscat: Bernd Ritthammer was an immovable object at the top of the leaderboard on Moving Day at the NBO Golf Classic Grand Final, a five under par third round of 67 taking him two shots clear of the chasing pack.
The German played flawless golf, making five birdies to move to 18 under par at Almouj Golf and put himself in contention for a third European Challenge Tour victory of the season.
Following Saturday's final round, the top 16 on the season-long Road to Oman will graduate to the European Tour, and even though Ritthammer has long known he will be among them, he is keen to end the year in style.
“It doesn’t matter too much what happens here with me, but I do still really want to win,” said the 29 year old. “It would be very special to win the Grand Final as it is very different to all the other tournaments and I would love to do it.
“If you’re in a good position then expectations rise, but I am trying to stay the same as I was coming into this week because I was playing without any pressure.
“It wasn’t as easy as yesterday (Thursday). I hit a couple of wayward shots on the front nine but managed to make some good saves, and I am pleased with not dropping a shot today (Friday).
“I am slightly surprised with the scoring today (Friday) as the pins were a lot tougher and I have seen there are a lot of guys that are chasing me with plenty of low scores. It is going to be tough tomorrow but I am ready for it.”
Matthieu Pavon will lead the hunt in Muscat, the Frenchman’s 65 giving him outright second on 16 under par, while Ryan Fox went one shot better to reach 15 under par and secure his place in the final group of the season.
The New Zealand Olympian has also given himself a chance to overtake Jordan Smith at the top of the Rankings if he is able to win tomorrow for the second time this season.
Behind them Julien Guerrier and Gary King have both given themselves an unlikely shot at European Tour cards by making significant moves, Guerrier shooting 64 and King tying the course record with a 63 as they reached 14 under par.
Mathematically only a top-two finish will suffice for either player, and King was delighted to have produced such a good performance when it mattered the most.
“I came into today knowing what is at stake,” said the 26 year old. “I felt a bit lethargic this morning after oversleeping last night, but I turned to my caddie after the seventh and said ‘six birdies on the spin really wakes you up.’
“It was really nice to get off to that strong start, and it was plain sailing from there for the rest of my round really.
“Knowing what is on the line, I would say this is probably the best round of golf I have ever played. I have had a couple of rounds where I have shot ten under and nine under before, but I think in the circumstances and with the pressure of knowing I had to go out there today and post a number like that, it has to be up there.”