Francesco Laporta leads BMW PGA Championship, Shubhankar Sharma at T14

Francesco Laporta secured a one-stroke lead after a third round 69. Shubhankar Sharma is lying five strokes back after shooting 68

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Francesco Laporta - European Tour - Getty Images

12 September 2021: Francesco Laporta set himself up for the biggest round of his career as he carded a 69 to take a one shot lead into the final day of the 2021 BMW PGA Championship. Shubhankar Sharma continued his recent good run, firmly inside the top twenty after a third round 68. He is five strokes adrift from the leader at 9-under through 54 holes.

The Italian finished his round in darkness on a deserted 18th on day two but all eyes were on him on Moving Day at Wentworth Golf Club, with a capacity crowd lining the fairways at the third Rolex Series event of the 2021 Race to Dubai.

Laporta’s three under par effort moved him to 14 under and one shot clear of home favourite Laurie Canter, with South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, American Billy Horschel and Australia’s Adam Scott at 12 under.

In the race for a place on the Ryder Cup team, Bernd Wiesberger was playing his way in at 11 under, while Shane Lowry was alongside him three shots off the lead but on the outside looking in by the narrowest of margins, with Lee Westwood sat in the final qualifying spot for Whistling Straits.

Laporta finished top of the Road To Mallorca Rankings in 2019 to secure a second full season on the European Tour after coming through the Qualifying School in 2015.

A two time winner on the Challenge Tour two years ago, the former Sunshine Tour regular is now looking to become the second Italian to win a Rolex Series title after namesake Francesco Molinari at this event in 2018.

“It will be tough,” he said. “It will be tough. But I like to be under pressure. This is what we play for.

“The crowd is amazing and I’m just looking forward to playing tomorrow and seeing all the crowds.”

Laporta holed a 28 footer on the first and while he failed to get up and down on the second, he was still in a share of the lead as Kiradech Aphibarnrat found himself with the same problem.

The overnight leader then dropped another shot after finding sand off the tee at the third and Laporta led by three as he put a stunning second to 12 feet at the par five fourth for an eagle.

A poor chip at the seventh led to a dropped shot and Laporta had company at the summit in the form of Canter, who recovered from a dropped shot at the third after a ragged tee shot with an up-and-down from the sand on the fourth and a 23 footer on the eighth.

The 31-year-old gave the shot back on the next after finding sand off the tee and dropped back to 11 under, where he was two behind as Laporta made a 14 foot left to righter on the 11th.

The lead was trimmed as Canter made a two putt birdie on the 12th but Laporta holed an 18 footer on the 16th to lead by two before Canter hit back again with an up-and-down on the par five 17th in a 70.

Horschel had a topsy turvy front nine in his 69 as he turned in level par with three birdies and three bogeys but sandwiched a gain on the 12th with an 18 footer on the 11th and a putt from twice that distance on the 15th.

Bezuidenhout was one over at the turn but took advantage of the 12th and 17th on the back nine while also hitting an impressive tee shot into the tenth, holing a 16 footer on the 13th and putting his approach to four feet at the 15th in a 68.

Donaldson looked like he was falling away with a hat-trick of bogeys from the seventh but he had picked up shots on the fourth and 11th and hit a nice approach into the 16th before getting up and down on the next and eagling the last from 26 feet to sign for a 69.

A good finish handed Scott a 70 as he holed a ten footer on the 16th and two putted from off the green at the last after making three birdies and three bogeys in his opening 12 holes.

In the group at 11 under, Irishman Lowry put his tee shot to 15 feet on the second, made a two putt birdie on the fourth and used the contours to get his approach to three feet on the eighth as he birdied all three holes for the third day in a row.

A bogey after going over the back of the 15th dropped the 2019 Open Champion out of the Ryder Cup team but a lovely chip led to a birdie on the last and he was back in, before Scott’s closing gain pushed him out once more.

Wiesberger made it a hat-trick of dropped shots on the first this week but hit back with smart approaches to the third and fourth.

A long putt on the tenth was followed by an up-and-down from the sand on the 12th and while the Austrian dropped a shot on the next, he hit a stunning a approach into the 15th, made a two putt birdie on the 17th and took advantage of the last after a clever chip.

American Sean Crocker was also at 11 under, a shot clear of Aphibarnrat, Dane Nicolai Højgaard, Swede Joakim Lagergren and South African Justin Walters, with 20 players within five shots of the lead.