Paul O’Hara and Gareth Wright are locked together at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final round of the £50,000 M&H Logistics Scottish PGA Championship at Gleneagles.
On 13-under-par, the pair are two ahead of Louis Gaughan, with Sam Binning a further two strokes back as the event’s 100th staging heads for an exciting conclusion on the King’s Course.
Wright, the 2014 winner, briefly lost the lead he’d held since opening with a stunning 62 before picking up two shots in the last three holes as the West Linton professional signed for a 68.
“I’ll take that today as I went down with the lurgy after I went back to my hotel yesterday afternoon,” said Wright, who failed by the narrowest of margins to make the cut in last week’s British Masters at The Grove.
“I felt hot, cold and sweaty out there and have lost the feeling in my arms. I was really out of sorts for a bit early on the back nine and I don’t know if that was down to feeling tired.”
The Welshman insisted he was unconcerned about having seen his sizeable advantage from the first round whittled away by the dangerous O’Hara over the last two days.
“No matter whether you start with level-par or nine-under, the aim is to give yourself a chance of winning heading into the last round and I’m happy to be that position going into tomorrow,” said Wright, a member of last year’s history-making Great Britain side in the PGA Cup in California.
“I’ve played steady golf to shoot one-under and three-under over the past two days and I’m certainly looking forward to the final round.”
O’Hara, winner of both the P&H Championship at The Renaissance and the Scottish Young Pros at West Lothian earlier in the year, signed for six birdies as he recovered from being one-over early on to post a 66.
“I played pretty steady again, hitting fairways and greens most of the way round,” reported the 30-year-old, who is attached to North Lanarkshire Leisure and based at Lochview Golf Centre in Coatbridge.
The three-time Scottish Amateur Championship finalist had a chance to hold the outright lead heading into the final circuit but “over-borrowed” with a seven-foot eagle attempt at the last in picturesque Perthshire.
“This is a prestigious tournament and it would be one of my biggest wins if I can pull it off tomorrow,” added O’Hara. “I’ve won a lot of tournaments over the years and I’m happy with my position with a round to go.”
Gaughan, who is bidding to join Eric Brown and Bernard Gallacher in taking this trophy back to Bathgate, ensured the final day won’t necessarily be a straight shoot-out between the joint-leaders as he carded a 68.
Out in one-over, the 23-year-old dug deep to come home in four-under, with a par save at the 14th, where he made eagle with his second ball after losing his first one, proving just as important as birdies at the 10th, 12th, 17th and 18th.
“I think that’s the first time I’ve been in a final group and I both enjoyed it and felt quite comfortable,” said Gaughan, who is hoping to use the experience he gained from being in challenging positions in both the P&H Championship and the Northern Open earlier this year to good use on the last day.
It seems unlikely that both O’Hara and Wright will fall away but, if they do, then Binning is still in the mix after he carded a 68 at the venue where his grandfather’s ashes were scattered on the 14th hole.
Robert Arnott, who won the PGA Seniors’ Championship at Foxhills earlier in the year, carded the day’s best score - a seven-under-par 64 that ended in style with an eagle-3 at the last.
“It was quite a surprise as I’ve been popping tablets like you never know for a sore back and hip,” said the 53-year-old Bishopbriggs Golf Range pro of his eye-catching effort.