Simon Thornton has vowed to keep his eye on the ball and not the prizes as he enters the final round of the BMW International Open with a chance of his maiden tour win.

The 33-year old Bradford native, now resident in Co Down, fired a third successive 67 to share second place with Ross Fisher and trail leader Bradley Dredge by just three shots on 15 under par.

A victory worth €333,330 would make Irish passport holder Thornton exempt on tour until the end of 2012 and guarantee his presence in the HSBC Champions tournament at the end of the season. Even second place would ensure that he retains the card he won at the Q-School last November while a top 10 finish would get him into next week’s big money French Open in Paris. 

Currently 178th in the Race to Dubai with €38,121 from 10 starts, Thornton is well aware that the rewards are massive but knows that he has to take things one shot at a time in Munich before he can start thinking about what it all means.

Reminded that there was a lot at stake, Thornton said: “There is. But I am not dwelling on that at the moment. I have got a lot of things to do before that. I have got 18 holes of golf and hopefully 67 shots again. But we’ll see.”

As for his third five under par 67 on the trot, he said: “It’s still going to plan. Round by round. Three down one to go. Someone said after the first round that four 67s would be satisfactory so there’s three of them. We’ll have to see what happens tomorrow now.”

Before he finished tied 13th in the Madeira Islands Open in March or earned a career best € 15,938 for a share of 17th in January’s Joburg Open, Thornton’s best finish on tour was tied 63rd in the Celtic Manor Wales three years ago.

He’s made huge strides in the game since then and could well sneak up on the rails in a final threeball where Dredge and Fisher will be regarded as the favourites.

And if he can repeat his Saturday performance and enjoy the occasion without getting overawed, he may well pull off Ireland’s fourth worldwide win this season following Graeme McDowell’s amazing double (Wales and US Open) and Rory McIlroy’s victory at Quail Hollow. 

Confessing that he enjoyed seeing his name near the top of the leaderboard, Thornton said: “Today I seemed to be relaxed. I can stay in the present because it is just another golf shot. So I really am concentrating hard on staying in the present. 

“You know at this level that anybody up there has a chance of winning and anyone within four, five or six shots back still has a chance of winning. But if I can just concentrate on my own game and what I can do with my little golf ball, then that’s fine.”

Peter Lawrie is tied for 22nd place on nine under after a third round 68 with Shane Lowry a shot further back after an identical score.