Shane Lowry believes he has the game and the confidence to chase down his first victory as a professional in the final round of the BMW Italian Open.
The Clara man fired a second successive 67 at Royal Park I Roveri and at 12 under par he knows he needs a round in the mid to low 60s to have any chance of closing a five-shot gap on leader Garth Mulroy.
The 34-year old South African will take a one shot lead over Spain’s Gonzalo Fernandez Castaño into the final round with compatriots Rafael Cabrera Bello and Pablo Larrazábal a further shot back.
Yet Lowry knows he is playing well enough to finally add to his 2009 Irish Open victory, providing he can take advantage of the par-fives at the picturesque Turin venue.
“I actually came here with very little confidence because I played very poorly last week in Holland,” Lowry said after a round featuring seven birdies and two bogeys.
“But I hit a good few balls on Tuesday and Wednesday and managed to feel comfortable over the ball and as the week has progressed I feel like I am playing better and better.
“Two under the first day, five under yesterday, five under today. Let’s see if we can better than tomorrow and you never know where it will leave me.
“It’s the sort of course where if you are not making birdies you feel like you are going backwards. There are a lot of chances out there and I happen to be making a few.”
While he was three under for the four par-fives on Thursday, Lowry’s four at the 18th was his lone birdie on the three-shot holes in his last two rounds.
“I am struggling on the par fives,” he confessed. “I’ve only birdied one of them the last few days and they are easy enough. But I seem to be birdieing the other holes so that’s the way it is.
“Normally with par-fives I tend to hit it down near the green and get it up and down. But that’s the way it’s been going this week. I’ve missed a few short putts but holed a couple of putts on other holes.”
With Mulroy leading on 17 under par, Lowry knows he is going to have to produce one of the rounds of the season to clinch his first win since he claimed the 2009 Irish Open victory as an amateur
“I’d have liked to be 13 or 14 under, that was my goal going out today,” he told European Tour Radio’s Nick Dye after his round. “Hopefully the leaders don’t go too far ahead because I reckon the winning score is going to be close to 20 under.
“I am going to need a low one tomorrow. Twelve under is quite a good score but the course is easy and the greens are playing nicely today. I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the leaders go 16, 17, 18 under today.
“But I am happy enough, feel comfortable over the ball again and hopefully I can get out and shoot another low one tomorrow.”
Gareth Maybin shot a second successive 71 to slip to tied 37th, nine shots off the lead on eight under with Peter Lawrie (70), Damien McGrane (72) and Michael Hoey (72) 11 behind on six under.
Mulroy posted a six under par 66 as Fernandez-Castaño birdied the last two holes for a 67 to reach 16 under, while Cabrera-Bello and Larrazábal are a shot further back after rounds of 65 and 66 respectively.
Mulroy, 34, said: “I said on the first day the course reminds me a lot of a South African course. The trees and the shape are similar, and the ball goes a little further too.
“I haven’t played well this year. It would be a big thing to win on mainland Europe, especially with the purse here and the two-year exemption.”
Fernandez-Castaño had seven birdies and four bogeys - two from hitting his ball in the water - but the highlight was undoubtedly a 70 foot eagle putt at the long eighth.
“I played well but I had a few unforced errors which cost me a few shots,” said the five-time European Tour winner.
“But two birdies to finish on the last two holes has put me back in contention and I’m in a great position for tomorrow.
“It’s not going to be an easy task. There are a lot of players within four shots, and this is one of those courses where you can go really low if you have a good day.”
Lowry is tied for 11th place with Matteo Manassero and Ryder Cup players Nicolas Colsaerts and Martin Kaymer ahead of him on the leaderboard.
Colsaerts shot a 65 and Kaymer a 67 to share fifth place with Manassero (65), Phillip Price (66) and overnight leader Richard Bland (71) and Frenchman Grégory Bourdy (70) on 13 under.
Colsaerts said: “The few adjustments I made to my putting paid off… It is almost like my mind is somewhere else and I can just play freely.
“Regardless of what happens tomorrow I feel my goal is to get [to the Ryder Cup] in the great frame of mind where I am now.”