Seamus Power took a third round battering but still has a slender one-stroke lead heading into today's final round in the Championship at St James Plantation on the eGolf Professional Tour in North Carolina.
The West Waterford star fired a course record 64 on Thursday to open up a four-shot lead at halfway.
But wind gusts up to 25 mph on a demanding Reserve Club course made scoring virtually impossible on day three and he had to settle for a four-over 76 that left him with the slimmest of leads over Kevin Roy and his close pal and room mate Matthew Ryan on five under par.
Power, 27, struggled early and after three-putt bogey at the first and another dropped shot at the par-three second, his lead was in danger.
He recovered with birdies at the third and fifth to move back to 9-under for the week, but gave those shots back with bogeys at the sixth and eighth to turn in two over 38.
“It was a bit of a struggle out there. The first two holes kind of summed it up,” said Power. “Today was just one of those days where it was going to be tough to get it back, given the conditions.”
A bogey at the strenuous par-4 10th pushed Power back down to 6-under for the week, while a “terrible swing” at the par-three 13th led to what seemed to be a soul-crushing double-bogey at the par-three 13th – the hardest in the course on Friday.
“I was trying to stay as patient as possible. You’re always going to drop a few on a day like this, the key is just to hang in there and try and figure it out for tomorrow,” he said.
Whatever “it” is, Power figured it out on the par-3 16th, recording a late-round birdie (his first in 11 holes) to jump back to five-under for the week and four-over for the day.
Pars on 17 and 18 delivered a third-round 76 for the former East Tennessee State star who remained in position for his second win of the 2014 season and the fourth of his career.
The affable Irishman opened his year with back-to-back top-5 finishes at the Palmetto Hall Championship and the Championship at Callawassie Island, then claimed the Cowan's Ford Open title two weeks ago – a victory which moved him to the top of the tour’s money list.
“It’s obviously what you want, but it’s a little strange,” said Power of the sizeable overnight lead entering day three. “When we got out here, we knew it was going to blow and be a tough day, so all of a sudden I had to take a defensive strategy. You try not to think about score so much, you just try to deal with the golf course.”
As for his battle with Ryan, Power said: “It helps when we play each other because we know how far we each hit it, so we can tell how certain shots are playing.
“Besides that, everyone out there is trying to win, so the comfort level only goes so far. Either way, it should be fun playing with him as always.”