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Brown leads NZ Open by three strokes
21:32 AEST Sat Nov 24 2012

New Zealander Mark Brown has jumped to the top of the leaderboard at the New Zealand Open with a third-round six-under 66 in Christchurch.

Brown's score, the equal best at the Clearwater Golf Club, put him five under for the tournament on Saturday.

He will go into the final day with a three-shot buffer, giving him a great chance of being the first New Zealander to win the title since Mahal Pearce in 2003.

His closest pursuers are the Australian pair of Victorian Peter Wilson, who carded a 71, and NSW amateur Jake Higginbottom, who shot 72.

One shot further back are a quartet that includes New Zealander Michael Hendry and seasoned Australian Peter O'Malley.

The 47-year-old O'Malley, the 1995 champion, came home with three birdies on the back nine for a 68.

Brown, who was four shots off the pace at the start of the day, took little time to start making his move with birdies at the first two holes.

Five further birdies had him seven under for his round after 14.

His only blip came at the par-four 17th after his approach to the green spun off the front of the putting surface.

Brown almost saved par, his attempt from four metres lipping out.

The 37-year-old Wellingtonian came into the tournament with good form after a tie for third at the Australian Masters last week.

He says his putting was the difference compared with the first two days, when he had scores of 72 and 73.

"A couple of friends helped me out last night with a tip to stay a bit steadier," he said.

"In the wind, it helps to keep the old melon down a little bit. It felt a lot better and I did what I needed today and knocked a few in early."

Hendry was Brown's main challenger over the early part of the afternoon, but sputtered with two double-bogeys on the back nine after twice finding the water.

The leader on the PGA Tour of Australasia money list, Hendry signed for a 70 that included six birdies and an eagle.