Sophie Gustafson eagled the second hole of the Ladies Italian Open third round to lead for the first time. The Swede started the day two shots behind overnight leader, Valerie Van Ryckeghem, but after the Belgian bogeyed the second and third the tables were turned and Gustafson had a two shot lead which she held onto for the rest of the day.
Gustafson said she came to the tournament with her confidence high, having won the Chick-fil-A in the USA two weeks earlier.
"My win in America has done a lot for my confidence," she explained. "It makes it easier to come back here and have the belief that you are able to win." Her break came at the 437 yard par five second hole where she putt a nine iron to 24 feet and holed the putt for eagle. She followed the eagle with an 18 feet putt for birdie at the par four fourth.
Two more birdies at nine and 13 coupled with a sole bogey at eight took her to seven under for the tournament after a three under par 69. Whilst Gustafson progressed with a sub-par round, overnight leader Van Ryckeghem was dropping shots more often than she gained.
Two over par after three holes, bettered only by a birdie at six took her back to five over par after the first nine, two shots off Gustafson. Another bogey at 11 and she was three shots off the pace.
Local favourite, Silvia Cavalleri, got off to a shakey start after she too took a bogey at the par five second hole. Another bogey at the seventh saw her drop off the leaderboard and back to two under par.
The ninth was the start of a change in fortune for the Italian however and birdies at nine, 14 and 15 moved her back into contention and she finished the day in second place at five under par.
Scoring as a whole was not good on the third day of play at Poggio Dei Medici. The majority of players dropped back from the second day, and only 13 players broke par.
The best round of the day came from India's Smriti Mehra, who shot a five under par 67. Mehra, who started the third day five over par, birdied the first three holes before going on to have three more birdies and no dropped shots. India's only female golf professional said she has a good feeling about her rookie year on the Evian Tour.
"I have always wanted to play in Europe," she said. "I love the people, they are so much more friendly than in America. Today I enjoyed the round and played very well, I didn't hit anything to more than 10 feet of the pin." England's Caroline Hall also broke 70, carding a 69 to climb up the leaderboard to third place. Six birdies combined with one bad hole, a double bogey at the par four fifth, made a vast improvement to her level par score of the first two days and she enters the final day with a good chance of getting her first win since 1995. Fellow Englishwoman Trish Johnson also goes into the final round threatening Gustafson. A round that encompassed four birdies and three bogeys left the 12 time champion three shots off the lead going into the final round.