Justin Rose bounced back from a nightmare start to the third round of the Volvo Masters on Saturday to stay in pole position for a first European Order of Merit Title.
The 27-year-old Englishman saw an overnight lead of four strokes evaporate in just two holes as he produced a bogey, double-bogey start at the testing Valderrama layout along Spain's Costa del Sol.
His playing partner and main rival for the prestigious Harry Vardon Trophy, Irishman Padraig Harrington, rubbed salt into the wounds by shooting a birdie at the first and the two men were back on level terms at one-under for the tournament.
Rose quickly steadied the ship though and three birdies in four holes from the eighth meant that by the end of the day he had once again pulled four strokes clear of Harrington, who is defending the Order of Merit title he won for the first time here last year.
The Englishman finally came in with a par 71, the same as Harrington, for a 54-hole total of 209, with compatriot Simon Dyson joining Harrington on 213 after a third round of 69.
German rookie sensation Martin Kaymer had the best round of the tournament to date with a 66 and he was level on 216 with Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark, Scottish veteran Colin Montgomerie and England's Ian Poulter.
"I was a little bit shell-shocked after the start," admitted Rose, who could rise to a career-high sixth in the world rankings with a win here.
"It was certainly not what the doctor ordered, but on the third tee I told myself I was still leading," he said. "I said yesterday that a four-shot lead at halfway is nothing to get excited about and I proved it. But I survived today. It was a great to get round in level par and maintain a four-shot lead."
Harrington said he was full of admiration for the way that Rose had bounced back from his bad start.
"I can't now get away with a bad day, whereas he can still win not having a good day," he said. "It's kind of in his hands tomorrow."
At the start of the tournament, five players were in with a chance of winning the top prize in European golf, but the leading money-winner, South African Ernie Els, decided instead to play in Singapore where he had a prior commitment.
That left Harrington and Rose as best placed with both needing to finish at least third to win enough money to ease past Els. Rose also had to finish ahead of Harrington.
Swedes Niclas Fasth and Henrik Stenson, the only other two players left in the hunt, finished Saturday well out of the race, Fasth on 221 and Stenson on 225.
AFP, LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida
Canada's Stephen Ames fired a two-under 70 to move into a share of the lead after the third round of the US$4.6 million PGA Children's Miracle Classic on Saturday.
Ames would have had sole possession of the lead if not for a pair of late bogeys which moved him to 13-under 203 and a tie with Scott Verplank of the US.
"Winning tomorrow, or even playing well, would be great," Ames said. "It's a tough course to shoot a 64 because it is so much longer. But, if you play steady tomorrow, you will have some birdie opportunities and be at the top of the board at the end of the day."
Ames had just one birdie on the front nine but started to get hot on the back nine. He began with a birdie at 10 and added consecutive birdies at 13 and 14 to take a one-shot lead.
Verplank carded a one-under 71 and had four birdies. He grabbed a share of the lead with three pars to close his round while Ames made bogey on 16 and 18.
Tag Riding, Mathew Goggin, Jeff Overton and Justin Leonard are tied for third at 12-under 204.
Heath Slocum is at 11-under 205 and a total of 19 players are within three shots of the lead.
"I'm going to have to play a lot better tomorrow than I did today. At least score better," Verplank said.
This event is the final one on the PGA Tour schedule and the last chance for players to move up on the all-important money list.
The top 125 are guaranteed fully exempt status on next year's tour, the top 30 on the year-end money list get invited to The Masters.