|Dubai Duty Free Irish Open third round leaderboard|
|-17 D Im (US), J Rahm (Spa); -16 B Hebert (Fra); -15 H Tanihara (Jap); -14 J Quesne (Fra); -13 J Rose (Eng), S Hend (Aus), O Fisher (Eng), R Fox (NZ); -12 B Dredge (al), M Southgate (Eng)|
|Selected others: -11 T Fleetwood (Eng); -9 H Matsuyama (Jap); -8 P Harrington (Ire),S Kjeldsen (Den),S Gallacher (Sco); -6 M Hoey (NI),SLowry (Ire), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), P Dunne (Ire); -5 I Poulter (Eng); -4 MA Jimenez (Sp)|
Daniel Im and Jon Rahm will take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the Irish Open at Portstewart.
Spaniard Rahm, the world number 11, and Im, from the United States, ranked 542, lie 17 under par, one ahead of Benjamin Hebert, with Hideto Tanihara 15 under.
Olympic champion Justin Rose remains in contention four shots off the lead.
Frenchman Julien Quesne and Scott Hend of Australia made best use of the sun-drenched conditions by equalling the course record with eight-under-par 64s.
Quesne carded nine birdies and Hend an eagle and six birdies in a blemish-free round to move into the upper echelons of the leaderboard by matching the best rounds of the tournament so far.
Quesne is fifth on 14 under, while Hend is one shot worse off, along with Rose, Oliver Fisher and New Zealander Ryan Fox.
Rank outsiders Im and France’s Hebert, 254 in the world rankings, were joint leaders after both day one and day two – and the pair remain firmly in contention, long putts for par on the 18th securing rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.
Im is aiming to become the first American winner of the Irish Open since Hubert Green triumphed at Portmarnock in 1977.
“I played pretty solid and although I picked up a shot at the first, I didn’t feel like I made too many birdies compared to the first two days,” said Im, who began the week 114th in the Race to Dubai standings.
“Two good putts at the last two holes helped me to a 68 – the weather was great, there were lots of people out supporting me and I enjoyed every moment.”
Rahm overcomes slow start
Rahm negotiated the first 10 holes of his third round in one under par but four birdies from the 11th to the 14th helped propel him up the leaderboard and a round of 67 as he bids for a first European Tour success.
“Staying patient was key to my round as I knew I was playing well, even though the putts were not dropping in the early part of my round,” said Rahm, who is hoping to emulate the achievement of compatriots Seve Ballesteros, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, who are all past winners of this event.
“I just tried to keep hitting the fairways and finding the greens and eventually the putts were going to go in. The energy generated by the crowd means a lot, I just have to try and make some birdies on the front nine.”
Im, Hebert, Quesne, Fisher, Fox and Bradley Dredge are among those well placed to land one of three Open places on offer for players who finish in the top 10 and have not already qualified for Royal Birkdale.
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington is best of the Irish contingent after Saturday’s action, while 2012 winner Jamie Donaldson was forced to pull out of the final two rounds with a pulled muscle in his back.
The tournament forms part of the prestigious new Rolex Series of events, boasting a prize fund of £5.4m, with £585,000 for the winner.