All three of Ruaidhri McGee, Tom McKibbin and Conor Purcell made massive strides on moving day at the Hopps Open de Provence as they all gave themselves a chance of significant results in Mallemort.
The Irish trio look like they are going to be too far back to make a challenge for the title at Golf International de Pont Royal, where Sweden’s Joel Sjöholm leads at 12-under-par, but there is still the potential for a final day push.
Derry’s McGee is the closest to the leader as he carded a three-under 69 on Saturday to reach nine-under-par, racking up an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys to move just inside the top-10.
But McKibbin and Purcell had superb rounds of their own, both signing for six-under 66s in France on day three to boost their own hopes of a big pay day.
Galgorm touring pro McKibbin, who is searching for crucial Road to Mallorca points, fired seven birdies – including back-to-back to finish his round – and one bogey to move up to five-under-par, tied for 18th.
Purcell, meanwhile, looked like he was on for an incredible round when he went out in 30 thanks to six birdies, finishing his front nine with four straight, but his back nine stalled and he would card just one more and a bogey to reach four-under and a share of 25th.
Sjöholm is the man to catch, though, as he shot the best round of the day, a seven-under 65 consisting of nine birdies and two bogeys, taking him two shots clear at 12-under-par.
The Swede is tailed by South African duo Bryce Easton and Deon Germishuys, as well as New Zealand’s Daniel Hillier, all of whom are at 10-under, but Sjöholm is determined not to let another opportunity pass him by as he goes for his second Challenge Tour win.
“Last time I played well here I lost to Romain Langasque so I’m going to go out tomorrow and try to get that one back because it felt like I had a chance of winning that time,” he said. “It’s going to be really cool to go out tomorrow and have a chance again.
“It was quite a solid round today. A lot of good putts and a lot of good shots, but also a lot of bad shots and a lot of bad chips, and then it all equals up to seven under which was pretty cool.
“My putting was very good today. Every time I was in the range of where you think it should go in and you want it to go in, they did go in.”