Before the start of the UBS Hong Kong Open, Graeme McDowell reflected on the fact that he was close to a million euro adrift of Martin Kaymer in the Race to Dubai just a few weeks ago and has since reduced the German’s lead to €367,600.

“Martin was many lengths clear with a couple of fences to go,” the US Open and Ryder Cup hero said before heading off for an evening at Hong Kong’s Happy Valley race course. “But we have a couple of furlongs left and I am coming up on the rails. Fast.”

He wasn’t joking. Yesterday the 31-year old Ulsterman galloped to a best of the day, seven-under par 63 to go into the final round just two strokes adrift of his Ryder Cup team mate Ian Poulter (64) on 17-under par.

He’s on the bridle, as they say in racing circles, and if he becomes the first Irishman to win four times in a European Tour season today, he will head to next week’s $7.5m (€5.5m) Dubai World Championship finale a mere €66,154 behind US PGA champion Kaymer.

Simon Dyson (65) is three off Poulter’s lead in solo third with Rory McIlroy four shots back alongside the American Anthony Kang (67) after a second successive 66. But McDowell is ominously confident in his game after taking his scoring tally for his last 15 rounds to an impressive 34 under par.

“I feel that relaxed confidence that I had earlier in the season,” said McDowell, who birdied three of the first seven and then followed a bogey at the eighth by driving the par-four 10th and holing a 20 footer for an eagle two. “I am feeling very much under control and this is probably the best golf I have played since Pebble (Beach).”

The eagle gave McDowell wings and he reeled off a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th and parred his way home to set the clubhouse target before Poulter birdied the last two holes to lead on 19 under par.

Insisting that he sees no need to change his game plan for the final round, McDowell added: “I fully expect to have to shoot 65 to have a chance to win and, like I say, I’m not going to have to do anything differently. Just keep playing the way I’m playing.

“I came here confident that I would have a good week and I like the golf course here. UBS put on a great event and it’s great to have another opportunity to win again tomorrow. But I am putting no pressure on myself.

“Next week’s Dubai World Championship is huge and tomorrow would be a nice stepping stone if I can do the job. Regardless of what I do tomorrow, I am closing the gap (on Kaymer). But it is a very bunched field (nine players are within six of the lead) so I have got to go and play well. But I am playing great and excited about the next eight days.”

Poulter looked likely to run away with the tournament when he resumed after his career best 60 on Friday with a birdie at the second and eagle three at the third. But he picked up just one stroke over his next 13 holes before a birdie-birdie finish saw him move two clear of McDowell on 19 under par.

“It is huge,” the 34-year old Englishman said of his fast finish. “I saw the other guys get off to a good start and that kind of frustrated me not to convert some of the chances I had.”

Yet to make a bogey, Poulter added: “With Simon (Dyson) and Graeme (McDowell) pressing I wanted to make sure I went into tomorrow with a bit of a lead. That is key, really, making sure you go into Sunday with a nice advantage.”

McIlroy was out of sorts for much of the back nine but he sandwiched birdies at the 10th and 18th between a couple of vital par saves to card a 66 and trail by four.

Knowing he’ll need one of his trademark final round charges if he is to have any chance of winning, McIlroy said: “I’m a couple behind, but feel as if I’m playing well and made some key up and downs on the back nine to keep myself in there. I think my patience paid off with a birdie at the last.”

He added: “I will need a good one tomorrow. It is not easy to set targets like that but I have done it before. I shot 62 to win at Quail Hollow this year and 63 last year in Shanghai and 64 here so I have a habit of shooting low on the last day. Hopefully I can keep that up.

“There is something about a last round. You get yourself up for it and really motivated to go out and play well. The plan is to get off to a good start and take it from there.”

Of the other six Irishmen to survive the cut, 42-year old Darren Clarke carded seven birdies and dropped just one shot in his second successive 64 to move into a share of 14th place on 10 under.

Damien McGrane (67), Gareth Maybin (68) and Michael Hoey (69) are tied for 19th on eight under while Peter Lawrie’s 72 saw him slip back to two under, a couple of shots better than Paul McGinley (73).

Collated third round scores & totals

(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 70):

191 Ian Poulter 67 60 64

193 Graeme McDowell 65 65 63

194 Simon Dyson 64 65 65

195 Anthony Kang (USA) 67 61 67, Rory McIlroy 63 66 66

196 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 63 67 66, Mark Brown (Nzl) 62 69 65

197 Matteo Manassero (Ita) 67 63 67, Jamie Donaldson 66 66 65, Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 66 66 65

198 Anders Hansen (Den) 66 64 68, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 66 64 68, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 68 63 67

200 Jbe Kruger (Rsa) 69 66 65, Darren Clarke 72 64 64

201 Soren Hansen (Den) 64 67 70, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) 67 64 70, Kenneth Ferrie 65 66 70

202 Ben Leong (Mal) 68 68 66, Damien McGrane 65 70 67, Gareth Maybin 67 67 68, Young Nam (Kor) 65 71 66, A Siddikur (Ban) 72 64 66, Tony Carolan (Aus) 70 65 67, Kunal Bhasin (Ind) 68 67 67, Michael Hoey 68 65 69

203 Ricardo Gonzalez (Arg) 66 69 68, Scott Barr (Aus) 68 67 68, Chapchai Nirat (Tha) 69 66 68, Gregory Havret (Fra) 69 66 68

204 Juvic Pagunsan (Phi) 67 69 68, Kodai Ichihara (Jpn) 67 71 66, Wen-Tang Lin (Tpe) 68 68 68, Mardan Mamat (Sin) 67 67 70, Y.E. Yang (Kor) 68 67 69

205 Seung-yul Noh (Kor) 70 68 67, Marcus Both (Aus) 67 70 68, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) 68 68 69, Joong Kyung Mo (Kor) 66 70 69, Shiv Shankar Prasad Chowrasia (Ind) 68 69 68, James Morrison 67 69 69, Bradley Dredge 67 70 68

206 David Howell 66 69 71, Colin Montgomerie 69 68 69, Jose Manuel Lara (Spa) 72 66 68, John Daly (USA) 69 66 71, David Drysdale 67 71 68, Stephen Gallacher 68 70 68, Paul Lawrie 68 70 68, Mark Foster 70 67 69

207 Pariya Junhasavasdikul (Tha) 69 69 69, Jeppe Huldahl (Den) 69 68 70, Sung Lee (Kor) 67 68 72, Scott Strange (Aus) 68 68 71, Jean-Francois Lucquin (Fra) 68 68 71, Chinnarat Phadungsil (Tha) 68 70 69

208 Rhys Davies 65 71 72, Peter Lawrie 70 66 72, Thomas Levet (Fra) 69 69 70

209 Felipe Aguilar (Chi) 69 68 72, Danny Chia (Mal) 70 68 71, Graeme Storm 69 68 72, Jason Knutzon (USA) 70 67 72

210 David Gleeson (Aus) 70 67 73, Paul McGinley 69 68 73

211 Iain Steel (Mal) 69 66 76