Kurt Kitayama is still on track to win his first European Tour event, but the UNLV grad has company at the top of the $1.1 million AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open leaderboard.
Kitayama’s third-round, 2-under 70 moved him to 16 under, but South Africa’s Justin Harding joined him at the top of the leaderboard with an 8-under 64.
“Today played a little tougher,” said Kitayama, who earned his European Tour card at last month’s Qualifying School. “Being in the last group added a little more pressure. I made two birdies in the first four holes and I grinded it out, made a bogey on the back and followed it up with another birdie.
“It was windy in the first two rounds and it was tricky in that way. I was trying to adjust to that. I just didn’t hit it as well as I did on the first two days.
“There are still guys who are just a few shots back. With things playing out the way it did today, there will be plenty of scoring opportunities and it will be a shootout.”
Victory would give the Californian a European Tour exemption through to the end of 2020.
“I’m not sure if being in the lead will affect me,” he said. “Let’s see how I’m feeling in the morning, how the wind is and see if I can hit as many drivers as I did the first two days. Then, I will make adjustments along the way.”
Kitayama faces a man in form. Harding is a two-time winner on both the Asian and Sunshine Tours this season.
“I enjoy being up there,” Harding said. “It’s good. I have a pretty good attitude in terms of holding leads. I kind of like the guys coming at me rather than having to chase. I sometimes get in my own way when I’m chasing. So I’m looking forward to it. It’s nice. I’m quite happy. It’s a job well done.”