Northern Ireland Open: Michael Hoey three behind leader Dylan Frittelli at Galgorm

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey has missed the cut in the Galgorm Castle event in each of the last three years

Tournament ambassador Michael Hoey maintained his strong challenge at the Northern Ireland Open as a third-round 68 left him only three off the pace.

Hoey, 37, has missed the cut at Galgorm Castle each year since becoming the public face of the tournament in 2013.

But in a season when the five-time European Tour winner has struggled badly, he has a chance to right that in emphatic fashion on Sunday.

South African's Dylan Frittelli leads on 13 under going into the last day.

The Johannesburg man, a team-mate of Jordan Spieth at the University of Texas during his collegiate days in the US, leads Dutchman Wil Besserling by one stroke heading into the final round.

Holder Sordet remains in contention

Overnight leader Besserling remained in touch as he carded a 68 on Saturday while defending champion, France's Clement Sordet, is a further shot back on 11 under.

Sordet had a blemish-free 67 while Hoey is sharing fourth spot on 10 under alongside England's Sam Hutsby and New Zealander Ryan Fox, the son of All Blacks rugby great Grant Fox.

Hoey, whose five European Tour wins include a triumph at the Dunhill Links event in Scotland five years ago, missed 11 cuts earlier this season and is only currently 194th in the Race to Dubai standings with earnings of just over £26,000.

However, there have been signs of improved form in recent weeks and he delighted the large home galleries on Saturday by producing a tidy round of four birdies and a solitary dropped shot at the sixth.

Earlier, Hoey had been among over 50 players who had to complete their seconds rounds as a birdie at the 16th helped him sign a 67.

That left him two behind Besserling heading into round three.

Frittelli's best-of-the-day 65, which matched his first round score, included four birdies and an eagle at the second where he holed from 12 feet after taking on the green with his tee shot.

Dylan Frittelli
Dylan Frittelli was a team-mate of Jordan Spieth during the major winner's time at the University of Texas

"I didn't finish my second round that well this morning so I did some work on the range and felt a whole lot better," said the South African.

"When I come back (for the final round), I'm going to try and play the way I played today.

"If I shoot another round of six under par, I can't see anyone else coming back and knocking a total of 19 under par."

Frittelli's confidence is understandable after recent form which has included two top-three finishes in Denmark and Spain.

Northern Ireland's Chris Selfridge (67) and Damien McGrane (69) both remain in contention five behind on eight under in a group which also includes 2011 Portugal Masters winner Tom Lewis (66).

Glasson professional Colm Moriarty's 70 saw him drop down to 17th spot on seven under while Warrenpoint amateur and other home players Jonathan Caldwell and Simon Thornton are all sharing 32nd place on four under after carding rounds of 68.

Ardglass man Cormac Sharvin did not have such a positive Saturday as a 74 left him near the end of the weekend qualifiers on two over.

Northern Ireland Open leaderboard

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