BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) – World number six Justin Rose continued to move smoothly through the gears at the Turkish Airlines Open on Saturday, firing a joint best-of-the-day 64 to boost his chances of claiming back-to-back European Tour victories.
The 37-year-old Englishman, who had opened up with scores of 69 and 68, rattled off four straight birdies from the 12th hole to close within two strokes of third-round leaders Shane Lowry of Ireland (65) and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (66).
While Rose was blooming, three sixes on the back nine proved a devil of a problem for Nicolas Colsaerts.
The Belgian slipped back into a share of third place alongside Rose and Padraig Harrington (64) on 12-under 201, having started the day with a commanding four-shot lead over the field.
Rose, who wiped out an eight-shot deficit on the final day to win last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions event in China, was full of self-belief on Saturday.
“I felt like I could hole every putt on the front nine,” he told reporters on another afternoon of glorious sunshine at the Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort situated on the south-west coast of Turkey.
“Today was the best I’ve played all week, and maybe even better than last week. The confidence always increases after a win.”
Another victory here would help Rose to put a dent in fellow countryman Tommy Fleetwood’s bid to land the European money-list title.
The 2013 U.S. Open champion is third in the Race to Dubai standings with two more events to go, just over one million points adrift of leader Fleetwood who returned a third-round 67 for 208.
“Every shot counts at this stage of the season,” said Rose, with an eye on scooping the 985,000 points available to the Turkish Open champion. “It’s nice to be ending the season strong.”
Lowry, looking to claim his first European Tour triumph since 2015, rattled off six birdies in a flawless round.
“It’s been a while since I won,” he said. “Hopefully something comes flooding back to me tomorrow and I manage to get the job done.”
Aphibarnrat is also chasing his first win on the circuit since 2015 and, like Lowry, managed to avoid dropping a stroke on Saturday.
“I just keep trying to knock on the door,” said the burly Thai. “One day it will open for me.”
Aphibarnrat’s playing partner Colsaerts was going along serenely until he slumped to a double-bogey six at the 11th after finding water with his second shot.
The Belgian took another six at the next hole after three-putting and his misfortune was complete when he signed for a bogey at the par-five 15th.
“Everything was going according to plan,” said Colsaerts. “I then caught a mud ball on 11 and it flew a bit funny.
“But if you add it all up they are the only couple of blemishes I’ve had so far this week. I’m still within striking distance, which I’m happy with.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)