Shanghai: Rory McIlroy kept the most lucrative winner's cheque of his career in his sights by nudging into a three-shot lead at the Lake Malaren Shanghai Masters on Saturday.
The US Open champion sunk a monster 35-foot putt on the ninth green to signal his intent to keep his new management - and his bank manager - happy come Monday morning.
The 22-year-old shot to 18 under par for the tournament with a third round 65, a score that keeps at least one of the Northern Irishman's hands on the $2 million top prize.
Several putts went missing, but the world number three mustered an impressive seven birdies to put a cushion between himself and second-placed American Anthony Kim as the 30-strong field enter tomorrow's final round.
"I set myself a target of hitting 18 under today so that's what I did. I've got a three-shot lead which is fantastic," McIlroy said.
An inspired Kim turned early pressure on the tournament favourite and was trailing the world number three by just a shot heading into the back nine.
He eased the pressure on McIlroy with a bogey on the 18th but reached the clubhouse still in contention, carding eight birdies on his way to an impressive 65 and 15-under overall.
Breezy conditions, light early drizzle and the whiff of smog from the neigbouring factory and power station stacks made play challenging on the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.
Promising young Korean Noh Seung-Yul began the day in sparkling form with a sublime chip but later endured regular slices into the long grass and sand to score 67 and lie in third on 14 under, four shots off McIlroy.
Ian Poulter's third-round surge faltered on the back nine, with the Englishman venting his frustration by smashing his club on the tee after slicing a shot.
He carded five birdies on the front nine and lies in joint fourth on 11 under with American Hunter Mahan.
Out-of-sorts world number two Lee Westwood ran out of ideas as he tried to mount a comeback against rival McIlroy, scoring only three birdies in his 70.
The Englishman lies joint sixth on seven under with Australian Geoff Ogilvy.
Chinese property tycoon Shi Jian has stumped up the $5 million purse for the tournament and splashed out millions more on revamping the five-star 72-hole golf resort to major event standard.
The huge cash prize at the unsanctioned tournament has raised eyebrows in the golfing establishment - many critical.
McIlroy sought to defend critics waiting to pounce on elite players taking advantage of the boom in extravagant exhibition showcases in cash-rich China as the rest of the world tightens its belt.
"As golfers we are very fortunate to play for such large amounts of money. We all count ourselves as quite fortunate because of the way the world is at the moment, with a lot of people struggling," he said.
"I can see why sometimes the public view us making a lot of money the wrong way. But believe me, we are very grateful and very fortunate to play for such large amounts of money."