Australia's Marcus Fraser will take a slender lead into the final round of the Italian Open on Sunday, but Francesco Molinari remains firmly in contention for a dream victory on his home course.
The dual Irish challenge of overnight co-leader Simon Thornton and David Higgins remains but both failed to build on Friday's progress. Thornton remains on nine under, two adrift of Fraser, after he traded four birdies for four bogeys and signed for a 72, while Higgins dropped back to seven under with a round of 73. A 76 for Damien McGrane Saw him slip to level par, unfdoing all the good work of yesterday's 69.
Fraser carded a third round of 68 to finish 11 under par in Turin, one shot ahead of local favourite Molinari, his Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts and Sweden's Joakim Lagergren.
Molinari, who became a member of the Circolo Golf Torino club when he was just eight years old, began the day tied for the lead and got off to the ideal start with a birdie on the par-five opening hole after chipping to two feet, but a run of seven pars was then followed by a bogey on the ninth.
The 30-year-old could only manage one birdie, on the 14th, on the back nine to complete a 71, but promised a more aggressive approach in the final round as he looks to win his national Open for the second time.
“It was a different round compared to the first two,” Molinari said. “I didn’t put the ball as close as the first two days but it could probably have easily been my first bogey-free round; I was just a bit unlucky on nine to find a piece of mud behind the ball. I could have been a bit more aggressive but there is still tomorrow to do that. I am still up there and will try to do well tomorrow.”
Asked about the enormous amount of support he has been receiving all week, Molinari added on Sky Sports: "It's crazy. I haven't seen that many people here in Italy ever. It's fantastic and they are all rooting for me. Maybe today they weren't as happy as the first two days but I will try to give them some more joy tomorrow."
While Molinari may have home advantage, Fraser also feels at home on the course after a bogey-free round sparked into life by chipping in for a birdie on the sixth.
“It’s similar to what I grew up on before I moved to Melbourne,” said the 35-year-old, who lost a play-off in the Ballantine’s Championship earlier this season. “I grew up on on a very tight, tree-lined golf course with tiny little greens and the emphasis was on getting it in play and hitting little shots around the greens and that’s exactly what this demands. I think it’s a brilliant golf course and wish we could play it every week of the year.”
Colsaerts, who withdrew from the KLM Open last week after one round due to the flu, would have been sharing the lead with Fraser but for a three-putt bogey on the last.
“I played okay, missed a few chances and missed the one on the last so 70 is probably what I deserved,” the world number 54 said. “I am not as close to the flags as I want to be because I am not in as much control as I want to be. Sometimes I have short irons in and am not getting it as close as I want to but I am putting okay and it showed on the first day (when he shot 65) you can go low.”