Grant Forrest succeeded where the overnight leaders, defending champion Brett Rumford and former world No.1 Lee Westwood, both failed by comfortably progressing to the match-play phase in the £1 million ISPS Handa World Super 6 in Perth.
Continuing to make the most of his late opportunity, having only secured a spot in the field last Sunday afternoon as he was en route to western Australia, Forrest finished joint-ninth after 54 holes of stroke-play to be among just 24 players left standing heading into the final day.
That involves a series of six-hole matches at Lake Karrinyup, with 24-year-old Craigielaw man Forrest taking on Australian Matthew Millar in the opening round and Sam Horsfield awaiting the winner after the Englishman was among the eight players to receive byes.
Forrest, who is playing in just his sixth European Tour event since turning professional towards the end of 2016, backed up opening rounds of 68 and 67 with a level-par 72, finishing five shots behind Prom Meesawat after the Thai player claimed the top qualifying spot in this unique tournament with a third-round 72 for a 12-under 204 total.
It’s been an excellent week’s work so far by Forrest, especially considering it’s his first event of the year. The former Walker Cup player was out in Dubai recently as part of his preparations for the new Challenge Tour starting in mid-March and, after being 31st reserve at the close of entries, this has been an unexpected but welcome opportunity.
Bradley Neil, the only other Scot to survive when the field was cut from 156 to 80 players after the second round, bowed out after 54 holes, as did Rumford and Westwood as they crashed to matching 76s to miss out on getting into a play-off for the final few match-play spots by three shots.
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, winner of the inaugural Paul Lawrie Match Play at Murcar Links in 2015, secured the eighth and final berth up for grabs in a nine-man shoot-out, with others to join Meesawat in receiving a bye including Dane Thorbjorn Olesen.
Elsewhere in Australia, Scottish duo Kylie Henry and Michele Thomson have high finishes in their sights heading into the last round of the ActewAGL Canberra Classic, though it seems home player Minjee Lee is destined for a second title triumph in eight days.
On a day when Lee stormed three shots clear of the field at Royal Canberra after carding a career-best 63 to move to 14-under-par, two Saltires appeared in the top 10 as Henry backed up an opening 68 with a 70 to sit joint-seventh, with Thomas a shot back after signing for a bogey-free 67.
Edinburgh-based American Beth Allen is also to the fore, sitting joint-fifth on seven-under after a 66, but Lee looks to be unstoppable as she bids to make it back-to-back wins after claiming the Oates Vic Open last Sunday.
Lee, the world No 17, leads from Korea’s Jiyai Shin (68), with Sweden’s Pernilla Lindberg (66) a stroke further back and Anne Van Dam from the Netherlands (68) fourth on eight-under-par.
“It would be really special – it would be a big confidence booster,” admitted the 21-year-old from Perth of what winning again would mean to her heading into an even bigger event next week, the Australian Women’s Open at Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide.
Also preparing for that, Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew joined Henry and Thomson in making the cut on one-under, but there were early exits on this occasion for new LPGA card holder Gemma Dryburgh and Carly Booth, both missing out by two shots on three-over.
Back in the men’s game, Peebles player Craig Howie had to settle for a share of eighth spot after closing with a 71 in the ProGolf Tour’s Casa Green Open in Morocco. Bidding to back up Liam Johnston’s win in the Open Prestigia, the first leg of a double-header, earlier in the week, Howie had gone into the last day just a shot off the lead but ended up three adrift as Frenchman Julien De Poyen claimed the title.