Fisher's lead down to one stroke over Wood and Molinari in Irish Open

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Ross Fisher birdied four of his first seven holes Saturday, then fell back toward his closest challengers.
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PA Sport

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Ross Fisher had mixed feelings after seeing his lead trimmed to a solitary stroke as his third round at the 3 Irish Open tailed off aftr a flying start.

The Englishman held a three-shot overnight lead over Francesco Molinari after a stunning second round of 61, and he continued his momentum after birdieing four of the first seven holes on Saturday. But a double bogey at the eighth brought him back to the field and he dropped further shots at the 15th and 17th to card a level-par 71, allowing Chris Wood and Molinari to close to within one of his 12-under-par total.

"It was a tough day," said Fisher. "Unfortunately I tripped up on eight and obviously I'm disappointed to do 10 shots worse today. I feel like I am still swinging great and holing putts. I just hope that I can go out there tomorrow and try and put today's round to the back of my mind. I'm still the man to catch."

Wood's 66 was matched only by Richard Bland as the best round of the day, while Molinari recorded three birdies in a solid 2-under-par 69 to maintain his challenge.

Wood, buoyed by a 6-under 65 on Friday, bounced back from bogeying the fourth with a run of five birdies from the fifth to the ninth and another on the 13th brought him to the brink of the summit.

"I was hitting really, really nice shots, and the putts," he said. "That's given me a lot of confidence and it's sort of gone through the rest of my game and I've given myself half a chance for tomorrow."

Italian Molinari, meanwhile, turned in a 1-under-par 34 after birdieing the par-5 seventh for the third day in succession and, after giving that shot back on the first hole of the back nine, he birdied the 11th and 14th to keep himself on terms with the Bristolian in second place.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano is a further shot back after an eventful round that had looked set to earn him a share of the lead. The Spaniard turned in 31 after five birdies and a solitary dropped shot at the third, and he was 12 under after a 3 at the 477-yard 12th hole, but a double-bogey 6 at the last marked a frustrating finish to a fine 18 holes and left him to play in the penultimate group on Sunday.

He will follow Australia's Richard Green and Irishman Padraig Harrington on to the course after they both finished at 9 under after rounds of 69. The left-handed Green undid some of the good work of his four birdies with a double-bogey 6 at the 13th, while Harrington dropped a shot at the fourth and two more at the eighth but also racked up five birdies.

Noh Seung-yul and Anders Hansen reached 8 under, the former recovering from a triple-bogey 7 at the 15th by eagling the par-5 next.

Bland's eight birdies saw him join a group at 7 under that also includes Denmark’s Mark Hastrup and Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey -- although the 37-year-old's round could have been even better had he not bogeyed the last two holes.

Defending champion Shane Lowry shot 68 to reach 3 under, alongside fellow home players Paul McGinley and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke. But Rory McIlroy endured a difficult afternoon. He began well with successive opening birdies but a double-bogey on the sixth undermined that strong start to leave him level par after six. A birdie on the seventh was followed by bogeys on the eighth, 11th and 14th and he dropped three more shots in the final two holes for a 76 to slip to 2 under par overall.

Earlier, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell had a steady morning's work with a round of 68. The U.S. Open champion, following rounds of 70 and 72, birdied the second and seventh to reach the turn in 33 without dropping any shots and, by picking up a further shot on the 18th, put himself 3 under overall.