Ryan Fox powered his way into pole position on moving day at the Soudal Open.
The in-form Kiwi, who has finished no worse than 15th in three starts since winning the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February, carded a third round of 66 to reach 11 under par, a shot ahead of England’s Sam Horsfield.
Germany’s Yannik Paul sits alone in third on nine under following a 68, with compatriot Marcel Schneider, Fabrizio Zanotti, Niall Kearney and South Africa’s Oliver Bekker all on eight under.
Bekker’s third-round 69 included five birdies and three bogeys.
Zanotti’s 65 was the lowest score of the day and lifted the 38-year-old from Paraguay 36 places up the leaderboard.
In glorious conditions at Rinkven International GC, Fox took a while to warm up as he covered the first 10 holes in level par after cancelling out a bogey on the 3rd with a birdie on the next.
But the 35-year-old’s finish was as hot as the weather as he raced home in just 30 strokes to move top of the leaderboard in pursuit of his third DP World Tour title.
Fox holed from 15 feet for birdie on the 11th and from similar distances on the 12th and 15th to close within one of Horsfield’s lead.
He was not done there and, after laying up on the par-five 17th, pitched to 10 feet to set up another gain before rounding off the day in style with a third birdie in four holes on the last.
“I played really solid on the back nine, didn’t miss a shot, holed a couple of putts as well,” Fox said.
“I hope I’ve figured something out after a couple of scrappy drives early in the round and felt pretty good from the 10th hole on, so hopefully I can take that into tomorrow.
“On this course, regardless of how you’re playing you feel like you’ve got lots of chances, you can always manage to get a couple of irons in the fairways and still give yourself some wedges and the greens are rolling lovely and you can hole some putts.
“You know you’re going to make some mistakes, which I’ve done, but thankfully I’ve made a few birdies to counteract it.
“I’ve been in contention the last couple of weeks as well and not really done much on Sunday, so I’m looking forward to being in the mix again.”
Horsfield began the day in a three-way tie for the lead with compatriot Dale Whitnell and Germany’s Matti Schmid, with Whitnell making the early running thanks to birdies on the 1st and 2nd.
Horsfield responded with birdies of his own on the 3rd, 4th and 6th before dropped shots on the 7th and 10th left Whitnell out in front.
It was then Whitnell’s turn to struggle as he followed a bogey on the 9th with a double-bogey on the 10th and Horsfield’s birdie on the 11th gave him a two-shot lead before Fox mounted his charge.
Horsfield crucially holed from 20 feet for par on the 13th and 11 feet on the last to ensure he trails Fox by a single shot in pursuit of his third DP World Tour title and first since two wins in three starts in 2020.
Asked about his 69, Horsfield said: “It wasn’t the best. I made some really silly mistakes and had a lot of adrenalin running through me, so was hitting some shots that were just going so far.
“It took me a few holes to get into that and just made a bad swing off the tee on 18 but made a great par.
“The final round will be fun. I know Foxy pretty well, he’s a great dude so it’s going to be really good to battle with him.”
Whitnell and Schmid both dug deep to shoot 73 and remain in contention on seven under par along with Paul Waring, Robin Roussel, Andy Sullivan, Chase Hanna and Jorge Campillo.
– Report from DP World Tour website