Chasing his biggest win in the professional ranks, Blairgowrie’s Bradley Neil will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Italian Challenge Open in Sardinia.
The 21-year-old, who tied for second in last week’s equivalent in the Czech Republic, stormed to the top of the leaderboard on the back of a second successive 64 at Is Molas Resort.
The effort, which contained eight birdies, moved Neil to 20-under-par, two clear of Swede Joel Sjoholm, with Chase Koepka, younger brother of US Open champion Brooks, a shot further back in third.
Neil, the 2014 Amateur champion, has now carded sub-70 scores in his last eight rounds and is hoping last week’s experience in Prague can stand him in good stead tomorrow.
“It took me a while to get comfortable in the final group last week, but it was good that I had that experience,” he said.
“Also to be in the final group today was good as there were quite a few spectators watching us – which gave me a good idea of what to expect tomorrow.”
Neil, who started the day tied for the lead with Sjoholm, opened with back-to-back birdies before giving a shot back at the fifth - his first bogey since the 11th in the opening round.
Birdies at the seventh and ninth then took him out in 32 before he picked up futher shots at the 12th, 14th and, in burst to take the lead, 16th and 17th.
“It was just more of the same today really,” added Neil, who won a second-stage event in last season’s European Tour Qualifying School in Austria.
“The only thing that changed was that I was only one under playing the par-5s yesterday, whereas I birdied all three of them today, and that really helped move my round along.
“I’m quite disappointed as I haven’t made any eagles on them yet, as they aren’t very long, but there’s always time for that tomorrow.”
Looking ahead to the final round, he said: “A two-shot lead is not enough on this course as all the guys are shooting good scores this week.
“I practice really hard to get in to these positions so I am just going to go out there tomorrow and enjoy myself.”
Sjöholm followed up a stunning second-round 62 with a 66 while Koepka, bidding to emulate his brother, who won on the Challenge Tour in Italy in 2013, moved into contention with a 65.