Brett Rumford is one round away from becoming only the third Australian to win back-to-back tournaments in the 41-year history of the European Tour.
Rumford shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions yesterday during the third round of the China Open on the Binhai Lake Golf Club course to move to 12 under, one stroke clear of Mikko Ilonen (73).
The Australian ended a six-year victory drought by capturing the Ballantine's Championship in South Korea last week.
Jack Newton (1972) and Graham Marsh (1977) are the only two Australians to have won consecutive events on tour.
A hat-trick of birdies from the sixth saw the Australian catch overnight leader Ilonen, and the Finn bogeyed the last after driving into the water to hand Rumford the lead.
The 35-year-old Rumford produced some outstanding up-and-downs on the back nine on the way to his bogey-free 3-under 69 round.
All his scoring came in a burst before the turn as Rumford pitched to within a foot at the par five sixth, knocked a stunning approach to two feet at the seventh, and drained a ten footer at the eighth for an outward 33.
"That was a tough day," said Rumford.
"I really started to feel things on the back nine. I did really well to hang in nicely with some tired golf swings, I mentally stayed with it - physically not so much but mentally I hung in there.
"The wind was really starting to dry things out so you've got to be very precise."
Ilonen, who won both his European Tour titles back in 2007, started the day three points clear.
He is still confident of landing a result on Sunday although admits Rumford will be hard to dislodge.
"It was a good fight out there," he said.
"His short game today was incredible, and his confidence is obviously very high, especially on the greens, so I'm going to have to play very well to beat him tomorrow."
Spain's Pablo Larrazabal briefly joined the leaders with a sensational run of four straight birdies from the tenth, but missed a couple of short par putts to post a 69 that leaves him two shots back in third.
Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat had four birdies and four bogeys in a level par 72 to sit fourth on nine under.
Defending champion Branden Grace ironically the last player to win two weeks running on the European Tour in his native South Africa last January, is nine back after a third round 72.
- AP, AAP