Peter Lawrie's European Tour future will ride on next week's ISPS Handa Perth International but Kevin Phelan can take a massive step towards saving his card in Hong Kong this morning,
Ranked 152nd in the Race to Dubai and €112,627 outside the top 110 who will keep their full playing rights for 2015, the Mount Juliet touring professional is tied for 11th on seven under entering the final round of the Hong Kong Open at Fanling.
He's four shots behind Australia's Marcus Fraser, who set-up a fairytale return to golf with a third round 65 to charge to the top of the leaderboard on his first competitive outing for eight months after undergoing surgery on his left hand.
A win is worth €171,843 but even if he finishes second on his own, Waterford Castle rookie Phelan would pick up €114,562 and give himself a great chance of completing the job in Australia.
A three under 67 in the third round was his third successive sub-par round, which is something he has failed to do in a tournament this season since he finished tied for sixth in his sixth start of the season in the Tswane Open in South Africa in March.
Phelan has played 24 European Tour events since winning his card in the Q-School at PGA Catalunya Resort in Catalonia last year.
But he's made just nine cuts and now has a golden opportunity to salvage his year in Hong Kong.
As for Lawrie, he missed the cut by a shot on level par and heads to Australia for an event that has seen its prize fund reduced from US$2m to $1.5m.
That's just €1.2m which means that Lawrie will almost certainly have to win in Perth to avoid a trip to Girona.
Fraser, a two-time European Tour champion, has been out since February with a hand injury, but birdied four of his last six holes in Fanling to shoot 65 and post an 11 under par total.
He's one ahead of compatriot Scott Hend (67) with Mark Foster, Jbe Kruger and Angelo Que tied for third on nine under.
Overnight leader Ernie Els dropped off the pace when he hooked his tee shot into bushes down the ninth and ran up a double bogey six.
An eagle from three feet at the 13th and a birdie from close range at the next seemed to have got the four-time Major winner from South Africa back on track, but bogeys at the 15th and 18th, where his approach flew the green, saw him shoot a one over 71 and drop into a tie for sixth. That said, he's still just three behind.
Fraser’s injury woes began at last year’s Open Championship but it was February this year when he discovered he would have to undergo surgery to remove a piece of bone from the back of his left hand.
“I had cortisone in the top of my hand and shooting pain across the top of my hand, so the surgeon went in and took bone out of the top of my hand,” explained the Australian. “We got all that right and then had tendonitis on the left hand side of my hand.
“I had to have three months' worth of injections where they take your blood out, put you in the machine, spin the blood and inject it back into the tendon. So that got rid of the tendonitis and then I was trying to do a bit of rehab and get back into practice and start playing again.”
Fraser admitted to being ever so slightly shocked by his lofty position on the leaderboard, but he is hopeful of completing a dream return to the top level by winning at one of his favourite golf courses on the planet.
“Nobody’s more surprised than I am to be in this position this week, that’s for sure. After eight months of sitting on the couch I wasn’t sure what was going to happen this week. It hasn’t been the best eight months but when you play like that it makes it worthwhile.
“I think I’ve had three top tens here in the past and I was third a couple of years ago – I just love the golf course and wish I could take this course every week we play; I think it’s the best golf course we play all year.
“It’s just a proper golf course where you have to play well and stay out of trouble, and you need to hole putts – I’m pretty sure that’s the way the game was designed and it’s a credit to the way they’ve turned it out this week, it’s in the bet condition I’ve ever seen it.
“I had no idea going into the week and I’ve no idea going into tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll keep playing the way I’m playing and I feel pretty comfortable out there at the moment. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to play golf tournaments, especially being in the mix it’s good fun.”
Els believes he still has a chance going into Sunday despite falling from two ahead to three behind.
“It was a little hectic, especially the ninth hole,” said Els. “I tried a couple of things and they didn’t come off but I don’t see there’s any reason not to still go for it. I need something low obviously, but I’d like to go really low for my own benefit.”
Only the top 110 players on The Race to Dubai after next week’s ISPS Handa Perth International will keep their cards for next season, and the player right on the bubble – 110th-placed Lucas Bjerregaard – put himself in a good position to ease some of the tension with a 67 that left him just outside the top ten on six under.
Complete third round scores
199 M Fraser (Aus) 67 67 65,
200 S Hend (Aus) 67 66 67,
201 A Que (Phi) 65 69 67, M Foster (Eng) 67 68 66, J Kruger (RSA) 66 69 66,
202 C Smith (Aus) 68 65 69, J Randhawa (Ind) 64 70 68, E Els (RSA) 66 65 71, J Colomo (Esp) 68 70 64, R Jacquelin (Fra) 66 67 69,
203 K Phelan (Irl) 69 67 67, A Groom (Aus) 67 68 68,
204 S Chawrasia (Ind) 69 65 70, L Bjerregaard (Den) 69 68 67,
205 M Joong-Kyung (Kor) 68 71 66, M Both (Aus) 67 67 71, P Meesawat (Tha) 71 66 68, S Benson (Eng) 68 66 71, R Bland (Eng) 70 65 70, P Junhasavasdikul (Tha) 69 68 68, L Wei-Chih (Tpe) 66 68 71, D Huizing (Ned) 66 68 71, E De La Riva (Esp) 68 67 70,
206 J Quesne (Fra) 67 67 72, M Nixon (Eng) 70 67 69, M Korhonen (Fin) 69 67 70, W Ormsby (Aus) 67 67 72, S Kapur (Ind) 68 68 70, A Hartø (Den) 69 69 68, N Elvira (Esp) 66 69 71, G Bourdy (Fra) 67 68 71, C Lee (Sco) 71 65 70,
207 A Forsyth (Sco) 69 66 72, C Wi (Kor) 70 68 69, S Cyr (USA) 67 69 71, L Wen-Chong (Chn) 70 69 68, P Waring (Eng) 73 64 70, A Wall (Eng) 68 71 68, A Pavan (Ita) 70 66 71, L Slattery (Eng) 68 66 73, D Im (USA) 69 68 70, J Doherty (Sco) 68 67 72,
208 B Seuk-Hyun (Kor) 66 73 69, T Wiratchant (Tha) 69 68 71, P Whiteford (Sco) 67 70 71, R Gangjee (Ind) 68 68 72, W Jeung-Hun (Kor) 72 67 69, M Crespi (Ita) 71 68 69,
209 R Karlberg (Swe) 67 70 72, J Hansen (Den) 70 66 73, S Manley (Wal) 68 71 70, J Knutzon (USA) 68 68 73, S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 68 70, M Mamat (Sin) 71 67 71,
210 C Kim (USA) 67 70 73, A Da Silva (Bra) 69 67 74, J Janewattananond (Tha) 69 69 72, D Lipsky (USA) 68 70 72, T Lewis (Eng) 71 68 71,
211 S Kim (Kor) 67 72 72,
212 N Fung (Mas) 69 70 73, J Morrison (Eng) 71 68 73, M Rominger (Sui) 72 67 73,
213 J Heath (Eng) 66 73 74, T Chi-Huang (Tpe) 71 68 74,
215 J McLeary (Sco) 69 69 77,