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Justin Walters remained on course for a maiden European Tour title at the UK Championship but two-time Major winner Martin Kaymer put himself firmly in contention on day three at The Belfry.
South African Walters, who is looking to complete a wire-to-wire victory after taking charge with a stunning opening 64 on Thursday, carded a three under par 69 to reach 12 under to sit two clear of Kaymer, who surged through the field with a thrilling 66.
“I escaped last year by the skin of my teeth to keep my card. I came out with great intentions to fix the inconsistency and I really did think I would make some ground this year,” said Walters following his round.
Walters – who was been a runner-up three times on the European Tour, with two of those results coming in Portugal to keep his card – made a perfect start with a birdie from 20 feet at the first.
The 39-year-old gained further shots at the fifth, seventh and 14th, either side of a dropped shot on the 11th, to double his overnight advantage.
“It would be huge (to win) there’s no lying about that,” said Walters.
“I’m 39 now, you wonder how many opportunities you will get going forward with all the youngsters coming through. Maybe like a good red wine I’ll get better with age, but I don’t know, it would be nice to take advantage tomorrow.”
Kaymer made his move into a share of second alongside Frenchman Benjamin Herbert, as the German seeks a first European Tour win since his comprehensive US Open victory at Pinehurst.
It has been 2268 days since the 35-year-old romped to his second Major title by an eight shot margin, and he has welcomed the challenge of being in contention once again at an iconic golf course.
English pair Marcus Armitage and Laurie Canter, Spain’s Jorge Campillo and Denmark’s Rasmus Hojgaard share fourth on seven under par – five shots off the lead and three adrift of Kaymer and Hebert.
Leading scores after the third round of the European Tour’s UK Championship at the Belfry on Saturday (GBR/IRL unless stated, par 72):
204 – Justin Walters (RSA) – 64-71-69
206 – Martin Kaymer (GER) 68-72-66, Benjamin Hebert (FRA) 67-69-70
209 – Marcus Armitage 70-68-71, Laurie Canter 71-73-65, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 69-73-67, Rasmus Hojgaard (DEN) 73-69-67
210 – Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 68-74-68, Bryce Easton (RSA) 72-68-70, Min Woo Lee (AUS) 71-71-68
211 – Craig Howie 68-72-71, Joachim B. Hansen (DEN) 71-71-69, Andy Sullivan 70-72-69, Ryan Fox (NZL) 71-67-73, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 67-71-73
– Compiled by Sport24 staff