Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen will take a commanding seven-shot lead into the final round of the £5.7million Turkish Airlines Open in pursuit of the first seven-figure payday of his career.
Olesen was six clear at the halfway stage thanks to a stunning second round of 62, the 26-year-old setting a new course record with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort.
And, although he was unsurprisingly unable to reproduce such fireworks on Saturday, a third round of 68 took him to 18 under par and into the biggest 54-hole lead of the season by two shots.
England’s David Horsey, Italy’s Matteo Manassero, American David Lipsky, Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger and China’s Li Haotong made up a cosmopolitan chasing pack on 11 under, with South Africa’s George Coetzee and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee a shot further back.
The first prize of just over 1 million euros (nearly $1.2 million) eclipses Olesen’s previous biggest cheque of 700,000 euros for winning his third European Tour title in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last year.
“It’s not about the money,” said Olesen, whose lead was down to four shots following a bogey on the 10th before he produced a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th.
“This is the Final Series and it’s a massive event and obviously it would be great to win it. There’s still 18 holes left and I really have to stay concentrated out there and stay in my own little zone.
“I’ve never had a seven-shot lead. I felt a bit nervous when I went out today also because I’ve never been that many shots clear. It’s a bit of a weird feeling, but I know it’s not easy and there’s a bunch of guys there and it’s possible to shoot a really low one out here.
“I need to stay aggressive tomorrow and keep plugging away.”
Horsey admitted the chasing pack will need some help from Olesen on Sunday to claim an unlikely victory, but has not given up hope of securing his fifth European Tour title.
“Realistically we are going to need something drastic to happen on his part for us to have a chance, but you never know,” the 31-year-old said after his 68.
“I’ve just got to go very low and make a lot of birdies. He seems to be in control of his game and ultimately we’ve got to try and put some pressure on him somehow and hopefully he’ll falter.
“But at the end of the day we can’t control what he does and just have to go out there and try to shoot a score and see what happens at the end of the day.
“It’s fantastic that we’ve got these events at the end of the year to really make a difference. If you do well in them, you can really boost your Race to Dubai position and your world rankings. It’s a nice time of year to start playing well and hopefully we continue it, not just tomorrow but into the next couple of events.”
Masters champion Danny Willett, who needs to finish fifth or better to reclaim top spot in the Race to Dubai from Henrik Stenson, is joint 48th after carding four birdies and one bogey in a 68, his lowest round of the week.