South African Erik Van Rooyen has put himself in a great position to win his first event on the European Tour after carding a 66 which leaves him four clear of the field after Day 3 of the Irish Open at Ballyliffin GC in Donegal. 

After carding a course record score of 65 to tie for the lead with Ryan Fox and Matthieu Pavon on Friday evening, the South African sped clear of the chasers on the opening nine, hitting six birdies en route to a spectacular 29. 

The birdies dried up on the inward nine but he avoided any dropped strokes as he parred his way home to maintain a four-stroke lead from New Zealander Fox and Sweden's Joakim Lagergren

Former Masters champion Danny Willett was a shot further back after recovering from a poor start with five birdies in seven holes from the 11th, with Scotland's Russell Knox six off the lead on eight under.

The Irish challenge fizzled out long before the end of Day 3. Shane Lowry started the day six shots off the lead but his messy third round included six bogeys and he fell back to even par for the competition. 

"It's not very good. Severely disappointed, what can you do? There were scores out there and I just didn't do it today," was his pointed analysis of his performance on RTÉ Sport afterwards. 

Rory McIlroy fared slightly better but failed to improve his score after carding a 72, his cause hobbled by continued woes with the putter. 

"It's tough," McIlroy said. "On this golf course it feels like you should go out and shoot five or six under par every day, but it's a little trickier than that and it's tough walking off the course even par when you've given yourself loads of chances.

"I felt if I had shot something in the 68, 67 range I'd have given myself a decent chance tomorrow but I'll just try to round off the week with a good round."

Jon Rahm, meanwhile, demonstrated he would not give up his Dubai Duty Free Irish Open title without a fight as he surged through the field on Day 3. 

Rahm began the third round seven shots off the lead but slashed his deficit to just two thanks to a brilliant front nine of 30.

The world number five birdied four of the first five holes and recovered from a bogey on the seventh by holing from 30 feet across the green on the next for another birdie.

England's Andy Sullivan had set the early clubhouse target on six under par after a bogey-free 65, while tournament host Rory McIlroy was one under for the day and two under overall after four holes.

Rahm's charge ground to a halt on the back nine and the Spaniard's frustration was summed up when his birdie attempt on the 18th caught the edge of the hole and span out.

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me," he said as he had to settle for nine pars in succession and a third round of 67 to join Sullivan in the clubhouse lead on six under.