Crans Montana, Switzerland – Craig Lee fired a course-record 10-under 61 on Saturday to jump into the lead following three rounds of the European Masters.
Lee flirted with the chance of shooting the first 59 in the history of the European Tour, but he could not convert on some late birdie chances and fell just short of that goal.
Lee finished 54 holes at Crans-sur-Sierre at 16-under-par 197.
"(It was) comfortably my best round ever. Even as an amateur or in a bounce game, I've never managed to get to double figures," said Lee. "So this is my best round by far. You just try to focus on each shot you play though. When you hit it and it is executed properly and you see it flying down the pin, it is pretty special."
Second-round co-leader Thomas Bjorn (67), Alejandro Canizares (65) and Victor Dubuisson (66) share second place at 14-under, while Miguel Angel Jimenez (69) and Tommy Fleetwood (69) are tied for fifth at minus-11.
Stephen Gallacher, who also held a portion of the 36-hole lead, tripped to a 1-over 72 in his third round to fall to ninth place at 9-under 204.
Gallacher and Bjorn entered the third round with a 1-shot lead over five players, but it was Lee who grabbed all of the attention when he started his quest for 59 with six straight birdies.
After a par at the seventh snapped his streak, he birdied the eighth and ninth to conclude his outward 28. The run allowed Lee to reach 14-under and grab a 2-stroke lead over Bjorn, who recorded gains at the first and fourth to move to 12-under.
Bjorn birdied the seventh to pull within a stroke of Lee, but Lee stayed hot with another birdie at the 10th to again move two clear at 15-under.
An errant tee shot at the 12th led the Lee's lone bogey of the round. He quickly bounced back with a birdie at the 13th to retain his 2-stroke advantage over Bjorn before the Dane bogeyed the 11th to fall to 12-under and into a tie for second with Canizares and Dubuisson.
Lee's magical run continued with a birdie at the 14th and he needed just two more birdies over his final four holes to shoot 59.
However, the Scot could only manage four pars to close out his 61 and head into the clubhouse with the lead at 16-under.
"It was pretty surreal to see all these good golf shots coming out in the same day. I've been playing quite nicely for a while so it has all come together," stated Lee. "There were certain crucial putts that got the heart going and I don't think it ever slowed down. I'm still not really ready to relax."
Canizares, meanwhile, eagled the 14th to move into second place at 14-under and birdied the 15th to pull within a stroke of Lee, but he bogeyed the 16th to again fall two back.
He parred his final two holes to remain there.
"I made birdie on the 10th and from there on, everything just happened the right way," Canizares said. "I'm very happy to finish the way I finished although there were a couple of tough putts in the end, but I still managed to save the round."
Dubuisson then jumped into second with an eagle at the 15th, moving him to 15- under. But he too could not hang onto the position, as he closed with a bogey at the last to finish at 14-under.
Bjorn countered his bogey at the 11th with birdies at the 14th and 17th to stay within striking distance entering the final round.
NOTES: Lee is seeking his first career win on the European Tour ... Richard Finch hit a hole-in-one on the 13th hole. He received an Omega watch for the feat ... With many of the best players on the European Tour competing in the United States on the PGA Tour at the FedExCup Playoffs, there are no players ranked in the top 30 of the world in the field.