MADRID, April 14 (Reuters) - Irishman Paul Dunne still leads the way in the Spanish Open but will face stiff competition on the final day from Nacho Elvira and world number four Jon Rahm after the two home favourites each carded six under on day three.
Dunne has topped the leaderboard since the opening day but saw his advantage narrowed from four shots to one over Elvira after finishing the day with a four-under 68, his poorest showing so far at the Centro Nacional de Golf in Madrid.
Dunne is 17 under, one clear of Elvira and two ahead of Rahm and Swede Henric Sturehed, in joint-third, while Australian Brett Rumford is next at 14 under.
Dunne hit into the water to bogey on the 17th but made amends with a gain on the last hole, preserving his lead as Elvira also birdied the 18th.
“There was a lot of grinding there on the back nine but I’m happy to get in with four under,” Dunne told the European Tour’s official website.
“I probably wouldn’t have taken it at the start of the day but given the shots that I hit, I’m pretty happy with it leading into tomorrow. It’s probably the best my swing has felt, but I just didn’t pull the shots off.”
Elvira hit 66 for the second day in a row, while Rahm struck seven birdies and bogied only once to match his compatriot’s score for the day.
Rahm, who came fourth in the Masters last week, said a victory on Sunday would be the best moment of his career so far. But if he fails to catch Dunne, he hopes Elvira takes the title instead.
“It would be the most special victory I’ve had so far. Forgetting the majors, (the Spanish Open) is among the tournaments I want to win the most,” Rahm told reporters.
“I would love to be a champion in my country. It would bring me so much pride.”
The 24-year-old added: “I hope there is a Spanish champion. If it’s not me, let it be Nacho. I would be equally as happy.”
Englishman Andy Sullivan roared into contention with a second consecutive show-stopping display, carding a clubhouse-best score — a seven-under-par 65 — to move to 13 under overall, four behind Dunne.
Defending champion Andrew “Beef” Johnston is further down the leaderboard at 11 under. (Reporting by Richard Martin, Editing by Neville Dalton)