Ronan Rafferty returned a resilient three-under-par 69 that finds him just two shots off the lead heading into the final round of the VTB Russian Open Golf Championship on the Staysure Tour.
The Newry veteran rolled back the years at Moscow Country Club firing four birdies with his only bogey of the day coming at the par-4 18th. Still, at five-under-par for the tournament, the Northern Irishman is within striking distance of Welshman Phillip Price, stalking the leader in a share of 2nd spot ahead of the final round.
And there’s not one but two Irish challengers to Price the pretender’s title with Headfort’s Brendan McGovern in fine shape too despite a frustrating even-par 72 today.
Three birdies traded with three dropped shots finds McGovern in a share of 9th spot on minus three, just four shots off the lead.
Price remains the man to catch however as he extended his lead to two shots on day two by posting a three-under-par 69 in Moscow.
The Welshman, who posted a bogey-free 68 on Day One, now sits on seven-under-par and had to show his character to bounce back from an early double bogey to keep the chasing pack at bay.
Price’s countryman Stephen Dodd, David Shacklady, Rafferty and Miguel Angel Martin all lie tied second on five-under.
On a warm morning in the Russian capital, Price immediately extended his lead with an eagle on the par-5 second hole before the double bogey at the third dropped him back to where he started.
Two birdies and a bogey ensured he made the turn at one under par before three further gains and a single blemish on the back nine meant he signed for a 69 on Day Two at the picturesque Moscow venue.
The 51-year-old was frustrated by wasting opportunities to pick up shots on the par fives at Moscow Country Club, but was ultimately left content with a two-shot lead going into the final day.
“It was very different to yesterday,” he said. “I played really solid yesterday but today was good and bad. I think I bogeyed a couple of par fives, which was a bit of a waste, but it was up and down.
“I didn’t play anywhere near as well today but I probably hit a lot of good short irons and made a lot of birdies to compensate some of the bad play that I had.
“I eagled the second, which was great. I knocked it stiff from 240 yards and then I was in the middle of the fairway on the next and hit it in the hazard.
“That’s the trouble; if you’re missing shots then you’re going to be in the hazard off the tee or in the trees off the tee, or in some of the hazards around the green.
“I think I birdied the next couple after that and then I had a lovely back nine. I was going well around the middle part of it and then I bogeyed the par five 15th, which was a bit of a shame. I’m pretty pleased because it was an up and down day.”
Despite admitting that he would have liked a larger lead in Moscow, Price hopes finding consistency will guide him to a first win of the season tomorrow.
“I think there’s a couple of guys on five under so I’m still ahead,” he said. “I’d rather be more ahead, and it’s a shame that I’m not, but I’m still ahead so I’m still in the game for tomorrow.
“I might just try and play a little better! I probably need to be a little bit more consistent and hit the ball a little bit better so I’m on the fairway and on the green so I give myself lots of chances. I need to do that rather than having to get up and down.”
Dodd looked as though he would join his fellow Welshman at the top of the leaderboard, but a double bogey at the par three 16th meant he had to settle for a share of second.
Behind the quartet in second are Paul Eales, Gary Marks and Mauricio Molina in tied sixth on four-under-par.
The final round at Moscow Country Club will begin at 8.30am on Sunday August 19.