He looked ready to explode a couple of times but despite taking 32 putts in another frustrating day on the greens, Shane Lowry knows he's playing well enough to win the British Masters at Woburn on Sunday.
The world No 21 has had 92 putts in three rounds, mainly because he has hit more than 80 percent of the greens in regulation but also because the spongy surfaces have not been kind to him.
Still, after making four birdies and two bogeys in a two under 69, Lowry is just three shots behind leaders Matthew Fitzpatrick and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, tied for fifth with three others on nine under par.
"I didn't have to work that hard for it actually," Lowry said. "I played as good a golf as I ever have today, I just couldn't get the ball in the hole. I don't know how many putts I had, but I had a lot. And if I can hole a few putts tomorrow, you never know what could happen."
Lowry confessed that the frustration he has felt on the greens finally got to him a little at the 13th, where he made a rare, tactical error.
Two under after seven having followed an early bogey at the third with birdies at the fourth, sixth and seventh, his temperature gauge started to rise when he missed several good chances around the turn.
Chasing, he went straight for the flag on the 13th and mussed the green, failing to get up and down for par. But while he birdied the par-five 15th coming home, he was left to wonder what might have been as Fitzpatrick shot a 68 and Aphibarnrat a 67 to leave them one clear of Irish Open champion Soren Kjeldsen of Denmark and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti on 12 under par.
"I played nicely coming in and it would have been nice to pick something but. But I am only three back and if I can shoot mid-60s tomorrow, I can definitely win this tournament," Lowry said, adding that he was full of confidence and determined to stick to his game plan and wait for his luck to change on the greens.
Graeme McDowell shot his 11th successive sub-par round, a one under 70, to share 17th on six under with Royal Dublin's Niall Kearney, who shot a third successive 69.
Michael Hoey fired a 67 to share 35th on four under with rookie Paul Dunne a shot further back in 42nd after two birdies in his last three holes gave him a 70.
Pádraig Harrington had another up and down day, mixing five birdies with three bogeys and two double bogeys for a 73 that relegated him from 13th to 48th on two under.
Fitzpatrick, who at 21 is the youngest player in the field, remains on course for a wire-to-wire maiden victory after a three under par 68 gave him a share of the lead with Aphibarnrat heading into the final round.
He dropped his only shot of the day on the second hole but then carded four birdies to move to 12 under par for the tournament as Aphibarnrat posted a bogey-free 67 to strengthen his chances of a second victory on British soil this year, following his victory in the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play at the start of August.
Zanotti and Kjeldsen are one shot off the lead on 11 under par after rounds of 66 and 69 respectively, while former World No 1 Luke Donald is three shots off the pace in a share of fifth after picking up six shots in the space of nine holes in his bogey-free round of 65.
Tournament host Ian Poulter is seven shots back on five under par after birdieing the closing hole for a round of 70.
Matthew Fitzpatrick – 68 (-12 total)
“It was a battle out there. I have to admit I didn't feel like I played my best. I never really felt like I was threatening any of the flags out there. I just played fairly steady really. I didn't hit so many great shots, but managed to find the green and get off with two putts when I could, and holed the putts when I needed to.
“I have no doubt it's going to take a low one to win tomorrow. It’s bunched at the top, so I just have to see how it goes. I saw the stat this morning that some great names have won wire-to-wire. It would be nice to add mine to that. That is obviously something in the back of my mind, but I have just go out and play good golf.
“It was a big crowd and the support has been absolutely fantastic this week. It's great to have an event back in the U.K. I know there have been a couple already this year but this has been really special this week, and for me to be leading is really nice.”
Kiradech Aphibarnrat – 67 (-12 total)
“If you compare it with other European Tour golf courses, this course quite narrow. So just keep the ball in play. If you get yourself in fairway, you have a chance on this course. In the practice round I said to my caddie, four-under every day would be good to finish in the top three. That’s how I've been doing in the first three rounds. Just one more day, so make another 67.
“I love to be here in Britain, love to come back, nice weather. People is very nice and golf course is great condition.”
Luke Donald – 65 (-9 total)
“It's always nice to play in front of great crowds like we've got this week. They have been very supportive. I would just love to win any tournament to be honest, but it would be a little bit more special coming here in the U.K. It's been a little bit of a dry period for me. I haven't won for a couple years, but I would love to dearly get back into that winner's circle."
British Masters, Woburn GC, (Par 71)
201 K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 67 67 67, M Fitzpatrick(Eng) 64 69 68,
202 F Zanotti (Par) 68 68 66, S Kjeldsen (Den) 65 68 69,
204 L Donald(Eng) 67 72 65, R Bland (Eng) 67 67 70, R Wattel(Fra) 66 71 67, S Lowry(Irl) 66 69 69,
205 R Karlsson (Swe) 65 70 70, D Brooks (Eng) 69 69 67, L Slattery (Eng) 65 71 69, A Wall (Eng) 68 71 66,
206 L Westwood (Eng) 69 70 67, M Fraser (Aus) 66 73 67, M Lorenzo-Vera(Fra) 70 67 69, J Quesne(Fra) 70 67 69,
207 A Levy (Fra) 67 71 69, M Lundberg (Swe) 66 70 71, N Kearney (Irl) 69 69 69, J Van Zyl (RSA) 68 69 70, D Fichardt (RSA) 73 68 66, G McDowell(Nir) 70 67 70, K Broberg (Swe) 71 67 69, C Wood(Eng) 69 69 69,
208 P Hanson (Swe) 70 70 68, A Sullivan (Eng) 67 69 72, R Rock (Eng) 72 65 71, I Poulter (Eng) 68 70 70, W Ormsby (Aus) 68 69 71, T Hatton (Eng) 71 68 69, D Howell (Eng) 71 66 71, R Karlberg(Swe) 68 70 70, D Horsey (Eng) 69 72 67, J Luiten (Ned) 68 69 71,
209 M Hoey(Nir) 69 73 67, O Fisher(Eng) 68 70 71, A Johnston (Eng) 70 69 70, Y Yang (Kor) 71 68 70, M Crespi(Ita) 69 72 68, E Espana (Fra) 71 69 69, E Pepperell (Eng) 72 68 69,
210 T Fleetwood(Eng) 72 70 68, P Dunne (Irl) 71 69 70, M Warren (Sco) 65 71 74, F Molinari (Ita) 71 69 70, G Havret(Fra) 70 71 69, N Colsaerts(Bel) 69 70 71,
211 P Harrington (Irl) 66 72 73, C Lee (Sco) 72 70 69, D Willett(Eng) 69 72 70, J Singh (Ind) 67 73 71, A Hansen (Den) 70 70 71, A Chesters(Eng) 69 69 73,
212 J Edfors (Swe) 70 70 72, J Donaldson (Wal) 69 72 71,
213 M Carlsson(Swe) 69 72 72, N Fasth (Swe) 70 70 73, S Hutsby(Eng) 69 68 76, J Campillo (Esp) 71 71 71,
214 P Larrazábal (Esp) 71 68 75, S Hend (Aus) 71 71 72, G Mulroy (RSA) 70 72 72, G Storm(Eng) 72 70 72, B Hebert(Fra) 73 69 72,
215 M Jiménez (Esp) 72 70 73, G Bourdy (Fra) 71 69 75, G Stal(Fra) 72 70 73, D Drysdale (Sco) 72 69 74,
216 A Cañizares(Esp) 69 72 75,
217 R Finch(Eng) 69 73 75, J Garcia Pinto (Esp) 72 69 76,
218 T Pieters(Bel) 72 70 76,
** B Dredge (Wal) 66 69 WD