ST ANDREWS, Scotland, Oct 7 (Reuters) Britain's Nick Dougherty set up another opportunity to claim a second European Tour title by taking a three-stroke lead in Saturday's Dunhill Links Championship third round.
The 25-year-old Englishman has spurned several chances to add to his 2005 Singapore Masters success but a faultless six-under-par 66 here earned a 17-under total of 199, yesterday.
''It's about time the old lady (St Andrews) was kind to me,'' Dougherty told reporters. ''It was a bit of a step into the unknown because I've always walked away from here feeling I'd left my good scores on the course.
''But to shoot 66 like that, an easy 66, gives me a lot of confidence for the final round.'' Co-leader Peter O'Malley was in second place after a 69 on the same course.
A double-bogey at the infamous Road Hole 17th, where he found the treacherous bunker in front of the green and could only splash out backwards, cost the Australian dear.
Title holder and British Open champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland (67) shared third spot with three Britons.
The order of merit leader was on the same mark as Justin Rose (66), who occupies second position on the money list, Paul Lawrie (64) and first-round leader Steve Webster (68).
LAWRIE FEAT Harrington, Rose and Webster played at Kingsbarns while Lawrie equalled the Carnoustie course record at the scene of his 1999 British Open triumph.
South Africa's Ernie Els, third on the order of merit, was a further stroke back on 204 with Swede Niclas Fasth.
Britain's Rory McIlroy fired a 67 for 205.
The teenager from Northern Ireland produced a scintillating six-under front nine at Kingsbarns in only his second event as a professional.
If McIlroy, aged 18 years and 155 days, wins on Sunday he will surpass the European Tour record of South African Dale Hayes, who lifted the 1971 Spanish Open title at 18 years and 290 days.
Having let slip a three-shot lead with nine holes to go at the Italian Open earlier this year, Dougherty said things would be different this time.
''I don't feel so hung up,'' he said. ''I made the mistake of trying to protect my lead in Italy.
''I'm going out there to shoot a great score and if I do I'll be hard to catch.'' Britain's Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie missed the 54-hole cut in the pro-am event.
REUTERS BJR PM0930