SYDNEY (Reuters) - Mexican Abraham Ancer took charge on moving day with a brilliant seven-under-par 65 in blustery Sydney winds to move into an imposing five-stroke lead after the third round of the Australian Open on Saturday.
The Texas-born 27-year-old, playing in Australia for the first time, blitzed five straight birdies from the sixth hole and added three more on the way home for a total of 13-under 203 after 54 holes at The Lakes Golf Club.
Japanese amateur Keita Nakajima was in second place on eight-under after a 70, one shot better than American Keegan Bradley and the leading Australian Marcus Fraser, who both shot 71s for a share of third.
Matt Kuchar, the highest ranked player in the field, looked liked joining them on seven-under only to bogey the final hole and sign for a 73 and share of fifth with three Australians.
“It was a tough round,” said Ancer. “I knew it was going to be blowing all day so I had to stay patient and keep the ball in play.
“I was able to do that, it was a very challenging round but everything went my way and when it didn’t go my way I managed to make at most a bogey, which out here is pretty good.”
Nakajima will bear the hopes of Asia going into the final day after An Byeong-hun, who led after round one and shared the lead at the halfway stage after a hole-in-one, faded out of contention with a third-round 76.
The South Korean, bidding to become the first Asian to lift the Stonehaven Cup, imploded with two double bogeys in three holes on the back nine and finished tied for 12th on four-under.
With his co-overnight leader Max McArdle opening his round with a double bogey, the names at the top of the leaderboard changed frequently before Ancer took control with his run of birdies.
The Mexican could have been even further in front had he not narrowly missed a 10-foot eagle putt after successfully traversing the water with his approach shot at the 17th hole.
“It would be awesome (to win),” said Ancer, whose only previous professional title came on the Web.com tour.
“I’ve seen the names of the players that have won before, very inspiring ... it would mean the world to me.”
World number 29 Kuchar, who won the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico last weekend, and compatriot Bradley will be expected to mount a challenge on Sunday.
“I wish I was a little closer to Abraham. He has been playing some really good golf,” Bradley said.
“That round he played today is one of the best I’ve seen this year. But you never know. There are low scores out there and I look forward to doing that tomorrow.”
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty