Matthieu Pavon will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the acciona Open de España as he maintained his fantastic form with a 66 on day three at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
The Frenchman has led the way since carding an opening 63 in the Spanish capital and produced a confident display of front-running to get to 16 under after 54 holes.
England’s Nathan Kimsey was his closest challenger after a 65, two clear of local favourite Alfredo Garcia-Heredia, French duo Romain Langasque and Mike Lorenzo-Vera and South African Zander Lombard.
Lombard’s 65 on Saturday included six birdies.
Pavon is still looking for a maiden win on the DP World Tour but has two victories on the Alps Tour and has finished second three times on each of the European Challenge and DP World Tours.
One of those runner-up finishes came at this event last season, while he also finished second the only previous time he has held a 54-hole lead at the 2021 Portugal Masters.
He arrived in Madrid fresh off a fifth top 10 of the season last week in Scotland and with just two dropped shots all week so far, is in the box seat to turn his consistency into a long-awaited victory.
“I fought a lot today against my emotions,” he said. “I like the place, I like the tournament and I know I did great last year, so a lot coming into my head today but it is all about managing things and this is what I did today and I think I did it pretty well.
“What I learned [last year] is that it is tough to beat Jon Rahm. Last year he got me by six shots and I thought I had a great week, he is the kind of player that is on another planet.
“This week I just try to be myself, I think I have some family from Spain, my grandfather was from Madrid also, so everything is kind of matching up, and I am just happy to be here. I like the course and I am doing great, so I am just enjoying every moment.”
Pavon was caught by playing partners Shubhankar Sharma and Wil Besseling and even passed by the latter in the early stages but when he made a two-putt birdie on the par-five 4th to rejoin the lead, he never looked back.
An up-and-down thanks to a 16-foot putt at the par-five 7th saw him lead by two and he maintained that advantage thanks to a 21-footer after a fine recovery at the 10th and a neat up-and-down at the par-five 14th.
Kimsey did not look like he would be the man to apply the pressure as he turned in 34 after getting up and down at the 4th and putting his tee-shot to nine feet at the 9th but he came to life after the turn.
An approach to four feet at the 12th got his run going and he then holed a 59-footer on the next before taking advantage of the 14th despite putting his second shot onto an adjacent fairway.
The lead was down to one thanks to a fourth birdie in a row from nine feet on the 15th but Pavon played a smart approach of his own on the 16th to lead by two again.
The 30-year-old then dropped a shot on the 17th after finding sand with his tee-shot but drove up to just in front of the green at the par-four last and got up and down, holing from 15 feet to re-establish his cushion.
– Report from DP World Tour website
Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images