Ernie Els stretched his lead to five shots with a third round 67 in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond Saturday despite stiff challenges from Darren Clarke and Peter O'Malley.
Els methodically wound his way around the 7,095m course to collect five birdies against a single bogey, only his second of the week.
Clarke advanced to joint second place with a 64 to finish level with Phillip Price. Els was on 198, 15 under par, with his closest pursuers on 203.
O'Malley fashioned the best round of the week so far, a nine-under-par 62 in perfect scoring conditions of soft greens and no wind or rain to advance from a tie for 44th place to fourth place on his own on 205.
Ian Poulter of England and Peter Lonard of Australia shared fifth place another shot behind after rounds of 68.
Els refused to think beyond Sunday when he was asked what his performance here was doing for his chances of retaining his British Open title at Royal St. George's next week.
"I'm not thinking about next week, just about the last round here," Els said. "I want to play as well as I can tomorrow. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of thinking to be done and hopefully I can relax and enjoy it."
Clarke, a former Matchplay World Champion, has been unable to link all the facets of his game together in recent events, mainly because of errant putting.
On Saturday, he did.
"It's almost there," Clarke said. "It was very good today. I hit the ball very solidly and 64 is probably the worst score I could have shot. I'll probably have to play better to catch Ernie. I'll have to play as well as I did today and putt a little better.''
Price's 68 left him with an outside chance of making it two victories in a row following his last-hole triumph in the European Open at The K Club last Sunday.
O'Malley beat Colin Montgomerie in this event 11 years ago at Gleneagles when he fired two eagles and three birdies over the last five holes to beat the Scot by a shot.
"I'm reminded about it every time I come to Scotland," he said.
He kick-started his round Saturday by rolling in birdie putts of 7.6m and 6.1m at the second and third holes. He birdied the next two as well and by then, every club in his bag was behaving well and another five birdies resulted, including three in a row on the back nine.
Phil Mickelson shot a one-under-par 70, throwing away a good start with some erratic play on the back nine.
He birdied the 2nd, 3rd and 4th, bogeyed the next then collected his fourth birdie at the 6th. But three more bogeys followed before he birdied the 18th.