Last updated Saturday 31st July 2021.
Jordan Smith carded a bogey-free 65 to take a one-shot lead into the final round of the 2021 ISPS HANDA World Invitational presented by Modest! Golf Management as he seeks a second European Tour victory.
The Englishman was a picture of consistency as he recorded a second blemish-free round of the week at Galgorm Castle Golf Club to get to 15 under, a shot clear of fellow Englishman David Horsey and four ahead of New Zealander Daniel Hillier
Dutchman Darius van Driel fired a 65 to sit at ten under alongside Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura, who signed for a 66.
South African Justin Harding and Swede Vincent Norrman were then at nine-under, a shot clear of Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares, American John Catlin, Welshman Oliver Farr, and England’s Daniel Gavins.
In the women’s event, American duo Jennifer Kupcho and Emma Talley led alongside Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn at 13 under, one ahead of South Korea’s Chella Choi.
It is four years and one day since Smith lifted the trophy at the Porsche European Open to complete a meteoric rise through the golfing ranks.
Since then he has been one of the European Tour’s most consistent performers and has now put himself in pole position for a return to the winner’s circle.
“I’ve done it before so I can do it again,” he said. “That’s one way of looking at it.
“I’ve been playing well around here for the two days that we’ve been here and I’m feeling good, the swing is feeling good, so we’ll see how it goes.
“Today we didn’t do too much wrong at all, the putter saved me quite a few times so hopefully it can do that tomorrow if needed.
“I made some changes at the end of last year. There’s been a lot of work and a lot of getting used to it so it’s nice to see it paying off.”
Smith started the day one shot back but as overnight leader Hillier made an early stumble, the 28-year-old capitalised, putting an approach to eight feet at the first and driving the green at the par-four second to lead by two.
He found sand at the third and fifth but got up and down as he holed a pair of 20 footers for par and when he holed from 15 feet at the ninth, he was four ahead at the turn.
Horsey drove the green at the second and got down in two before following a first bogey of the week on the sixth with a 30 footer for birdie on the next.
He was forced to lay up after finding rough off the tee at the par-five tenth but still made his birdie and an approach to eight feet on the next cut the lead to two.
A towering second over the trees on the 13th set up a third gain in four holes for Horsey but Smith followed him in from 12 feet to stay two ahead.
Horsey was relentless with the putter, however, and he holed a 25 footer from the fringe at the 15th to trim the lead back to one.
Both men laid up at the par-five last and while Smith made his birdie from 12 feet, Horsey followed him in from a foot closer to sign for a 64.
Hillier three-putted the first, found water on the third, and put his tee shot in the sand on the fifth to turn in three over but holed out from 168 yards on the 11th for a spectacular eagle to get back in the mix at ten under.
An approach to seven feet on the 16th then moved him to level par for the day and he parred the last for a 70 despite finding the water.
Harding and Norrman both signed for rounds of 67, a score matched by Catlin and Farr, with Gavins registering a 66 and Cañizares carding a 68.
Anannarukarn carded the lowest round of the day in the women’s event, making five birdies in a row from the ninth in a 66 to join long-time leader Talley and Kupcho at the summit.
Talley’s boyfriend Patrick is Kupcho’s caddie and while the 27-year-old had been looking forward to sharing a group with her other half, she admitted after her third-round 73 that it had been a distraction.
“It was weird,” she said. “I honestly didn’t like it. Now I know what to expect so I feel a lot better about doing it tomorrow. Today honestly threw me off.”
Kupcho birdied her last two holes in a 70, while Choi signed for a 71 to sit two shots ahead of Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul.